Cholinergic neurons intrinsic to rat cortex were studied using a sensitive method for the localization of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity, acetylcholinesterase histochemistry, combined localization of choline acetyltransferase and acetylcholinesterase, and combined localization of choline acetyltransferase and retrogradely transported horseradish peroxidase-wheat germ agglutinin. Choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity was localized predominantly in small bipolar cortical neurons within the upper layers of isocortex, while small multipolar neurons were the predominantly stained cell type in allocortical regions. Acetylcholinesterase histochemistry demonstrated mainly small polymorphic cells scattered throughout all cellular layers in all cortices. Combined staining for choline acetyltransferase and acetylcholinesterase resulted in localization of the markers in different cell populations; choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactive neurons did not contain detectable acetylcholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase-positive neurons did not contain detectable immunoreactivity to choline acetyl-transferase. Some possible connections of the cortical choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactive cells were studied in rats which had received injections of horseradish peroxidase-wheat germ agglutinin into either cortex or brainstem. The choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactive cells were frequently admixed with cells labeled with the retrograde marker; however, no double-labeled cells were observed. It was concluded that cortical cholinergic cells are not visualized by acetylcholinesterase histochemistry, and are likely to be involved in local circuitry.
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