Comparison of acetylcholinesterase and choline acetyltransferase staining patterns in the optic tectum of the goldfish Carassius auratus. A histochemical and immunocytochemical analysis.
Although the optic tectum of nonmammalian vertebrates has been extensively studied anatomically, there is little information about the identification of neurotransmitters and the enzymes critical to their synthesis. Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the enzyme responsible for acetylcholine synthesis, is presently regarded as the most reliable marker for cholinergic neurons, and its localization within putative cholinergic neurons has been made possible by the development of antibodies specific to ChAT. We have compared the immunocytochemical localization of ChAT to the histochemical staining of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in the goldfish optic tectum. Goldfish brains reacted with the monoclonal antibody AB8 to ChAT have revealed that: (1) type XIV neurons are the only ChAT-positive cells in the tectum, and there are approximately 15,000 such cells per tectal hemisphere; (2) these neurons and other ChAT-containing afferent fibers form bands of label which correspond to those seen after AChE staining, and (3) many AChE-stained neurons do not contain ChAT. The immunohistochemical localization of ChAT has provided a direct method for determining the localization and organization of putative cholinergic structures in the optic tectum of goldfish. Future studies may elucidate the relationship of these cholinergic systems to the retinotectal projections, as there is close correspondence between AChE and ChAT location and the retinotectal termination patterns.