Temporal and compartmental restriction of neuron-specific enolase expression in the rat mesostriatal system

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The striatum and the mesencephalic dopamine neurons which innervate it, are each organized into developmentally and biochemically distinct compartments. Striatal patches, characterized in the neonate by high concentrations of opiate receptors and substance P, are innervated prenatally by fibers originating in one group of midbrain dopamine neurons, the ventral tier. By the third postnatal day, a dense dopamine projection from neurons in the dorsal tier of the mesostriatal group innervates non-patch areas of the striatum, i.e. the matrix, and is followed by the appearance there of neurotensin, somatostatin and calcium binding protein. We have recently observed that the period of establishment of connections between dorsal tier dopamine neurons and their target cells in the striatal matrix is accompanied by a surge in expression of the gene coding for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). In order to determine the overall metabolic state of mesencephalic and striatal neurons during the period of up-regulation of TH gene expression, we have applied immunocytochemistry for neuron specific enolase (NSE), and cytochrome oxidase histochemistry, known markers for neuronal activity, as well as TH immunohistochemistry to the mesencephalon and striatum of postnatally developing rats. At birth, both NSE and cytochrome oxidase were expressed almost exclusively in the patches, appearing in the matrix only after the 2nd postnatal day. Patches of NSE remained visible thru the 14th day. In the mesencephalon, cytochrome oxidase and immunoreactive NSE cells in adjacent sections, were present only in the pars reticulata (i.e. ventral tier). By day 8, both techniques identified nigral cells in the dorsal as well as ventral tiers. The overlapping patterns of NSE, CO and TH distribution observed in both the striatum and mesencephalon may be related to the establishment of connections between the specific sub-populations of nigral dopamine neurons and their respective striatal target neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Sep 1992


  • Basal ganglia
  • Dopamine
  • Enolase
  • Mesencephalon
  • Striatum


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