A dopaminergic projection to the rat mammillary nuclei demonstrated by retrograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase and tyrosine hydroxylase immunohistochemistry.
The presence and distribution of dopaminergic neurons and terminals in the hypothalamus of the rat were studied by tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunohistochemistry. Strongly labelled TH-immunoreactive neurons were seen in the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus, periventricular region, zona incerta, arcuate nucleus, and supramammillary nucleus. A few TH-positive neurons were also identified in the dorsal and ventral premammillary nucleus, as well as the lateral hypothalamic area. TH-immunoreactive fibres and terminals were unevenly distributed in the mammillary nuclei; small, weakly labelled terminals were scattered in the medial mammillary nucleus, while large, strongly labelled, varicose terminals were densely concentrated in the internal part of the lateral mammillary nucleus. A few dorsoventrally oriented TH-positive axon bundles were also identified in the lateral mammillary nucleus. A dopaminergic projection to the mammillary nuclei from the supramammillary nucleus and lateral hypothalamic area was identified by double labelling with retrograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase and TH-immunohistochemistry. The lateral mammillary nucleus receives a weak dopaminergic projection from the medial, and stronger projections from the lateral, caudal supramammillary nucleus. The double-labelled neurons in the lateral supramammillary nucleus appear to encapsulate the caudal end of the mammillary nuclei. The medial mammillary nucleus receives a very light dopaminergic projection from the caudal lateral hypothalamic area. These results suggest that the supramammillary nucleus is the principal source of the dopaminergic input to the mammillary nuclei, establishing a local TH-pathway in the mammillary complex. The supramammillary cell groups are able to modulate the limbic system through its dopaminergic input to the mammillary nuclei as well as through its extensive dopaminergic projection to the lateral septal nucleus.