Catecholaminergic neurons, which take up and retain exogenous norepinephrine labeled with tritium, were studied by means of high resolution radioautography, in the substantia nigra, the substantia grisea periventricularis, and the locus coeruleus of the rat. Under the conditions required for the radioautographic detection of exogenous norepinephrine-3H, it was established that (1) glutaraldehyde was the most suitable fixative for preserving the labeled amine in situ; (2) norepinephrine-3H itself, rather than metabolites, accounted for most of the reactions detected in catecholaminergic neurons. At various time intervals after an intraventricular injection of norepinephrine-3H, the tracer reached a concentration 15–100 times higher, and disappeared at a slower rate, in presynaptic axons (t½:4 hr) than in nerve cell bodies (t½:0.8–1.3 hr). After pretreatment with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, the radioautographic reactions increased and persisted longer, especially in the preterminal axons. Within neurons, the labeled amine was ubiquitously distributed in the nerve cell body and concentrated in presynaptic axons and synaptic terminals of various morphological types. Although large granular vesicles were usually present in the labeled axonal bulbs, no structural characteristic could be specifically ascribed to catecholaminergic neurons. It is suggested that exogenous norepinephrine bound to macromolecular complexes is present in all parts of catecholaminergic neurons and mainly concentrated within presynaptic axons.

This content is only available as a PDF.