Brain Structure & Function
Nucleus incertus (NI) neurons in the pontine tegmentum give rise to ascending forebrain projections and express the neuropeptide relaxin-3 (RLN3) which acts via the relaxin-family peptide 3 receptor (RXFP3). Activity in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex can be driven from the medial septum (MS), and the NI projects to all these centers, where a prominent pattern of activity is theta rhythm, which is related to spatial memory processing. Therefore, we examined the degree of collateralization of NI projections to the MS and the medial temporal lobe (MTL), comprising medial and lateral entorhinal cortex (MEnt, LEnt) and dentate gyrus (DG), and the ability of the MS to drive entorhinal theta in the adult rat. We injected fluorogold and cholera toxin-B into the MS septum and either MEnt, LEnt or DG, to determine the percentage of retrogradely labeled neurons in the NI projecting to both or single targets, and the relative proportion of these neurons that were RLN3-positive ( +). The projection to the MS was threefold stronger than that to the MTL. Moreover, a majority of NI neurons projected independently to either MS or the MTL. However, RLN3 + neurons collateralize significantly more than RLN3-negative (–) neurons. In in vivo studies, electrical stimulation of the NI induced theta activity in the MS and the entorhinal cortex, which was impaired by intraseptal infusion of an RXFP3 antagonist, R3(BΔ23-27)R/I5, particularly at ~ 20 min post-injection. These findings suggest that the MS plays an important relay function in the NI-induced generation of theta within the entorhinal cortex.