The cholinergic innervation of the rat amygdala was studied immunohistochemically with antibodies against choline acetyltransferase and the low affinity p75 nerve growth factor receptor in normal rats and in rats lesioned with an immunotoxin, 192 IgG-saporin, directed against the p75 nerve growth factor receptor. The density of choline acetyltransferase-positive fibers was high in the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract, the basolateral nucleus, and the amygdalohippocampal area; medium in the lateral nucleus, the cortical nucleus, the accessory basal nucleus, the periamygdaloid cortex, and the anterior amygdaloid area; and low in the medial and central nuclei. Nerve growth factor receptor-positive fibers were of medium density in the lateral nucleus, the accessory basal nucleus, the cortical nucleus, the anterior amygdaloid area, the periamygdaloid cortex, and the amygdalohippocampal area. The medial nucleus and the central nucleus displayed a low density of nerve growth factor receptor-positive fibers. The basolateral nucleus and the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract also contained a low density of nerve growth factor receptor-positive fibers even though the two nuclei displayed the highest density of choline acetyltransferase-positive fibers in the amygdala. Injections of 192 IgG-saporin induced a complete loss of cholinergic nerve growth factor receptorpositive neurons in the basal forebrain but spared a subpopulation of nerve growth factor receptornegative cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis-substantia innominata complex. Following 192 IgG-saporin injections, choline acetyltransferase-positive and acetylcholinesterase-positive fibers were essentially unchanged in the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract and the basolateral nucleus and showed a partial reduction in the remaining nuclei of the amygdaloid complex. Cholinergic fibers emanating from cholinergic cell group 4 neurons reached the amygdala via the stria terminalis and the ventral amygdalofugal pathway. These observations indicate that two amygdaloid nuclei, the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract and the basolateral nucleus, receive their cholinergic projections predominantly, if not exclusively, from nerve growth factor receptor-negative cholinergic neurons whereas all remaining amygdaloid regions receive fibers from nerve growth factor receptor-negative as well as nerve growth factor receptor-positive cholinergic neurons.
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