Postnatal development of cortical acetylcholinesterase-rich neurons in the rat brain: Permanent and transient patterns

Changiz Geula*, M. Marsel Mesulam, Chung Chin Kuo, Hajime Tokuno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The development of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity within cortical neurons of the rat brain was investigated using a histochemical method. The fate of these neurons in later stages of development was studied in animals in which AChE within cortical axons (mostly cholinergic) had been depleted by lesions of the cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain or by injections of diisopropyl fluorophosphate. We designated neurons with medium to high intensity of reaction product as AChEH and neurons with a low intensity of reaction product as AChEL. Four groups of AChEH cortical neurons were detected: (1) AChEH Cajal-Retzius cells were present in layer I at birth (P0) and decreased steadily in number until none could be detected at P17 or thereafter. (2) AChEH neurons within layer VI and underlying white matter were present at P0, peaked in number and staining intensity at P8-P9, showed a moderate decrease in number at P11-P13 and a further decrease into adulthood. (3) AChEH polymorphic intracortical neurons appeared at P3-P4 in deep cortical layers and by P9 were present in layers II-VI. They continued to increase in number through P11-P14 at which time they displayed the adult pattern and were found in all cortical areas. (4) A large population of AChEH pyramidal neurons appeared at P1-P4, peaked at P8-P10 and was no longer visible at P21. In the adult cerebral cortex, few pyramidal neurons displayed AChE activity and these were almost always of the AChEL type. These results indicate that the AChE within cortical neurons is developmentally regulated and that the content of this enzyme helps to differentiate cortical neurons into distinct populations. The transient expression of AChE activity within cortical neurons suggests a role for this enzyme in the development of the cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-178
Number of pages22
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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