Putative cholinergic elements in the photosensory pineal organ and retina of a teleost, Phoxinus phoxinus L. (Cyprinidae) - Distribution of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity, acetylcholinesterase-positive elements and pinealofugally projecting neurons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Putative cholinergic neurons in the photosensory pineal organ of a cyprinid teleost, the European minnow, were studied by use of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunocytochemistry and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry. Pinealofugally projecting neurons were visualized using retrograde HRP-filling through their cut axons. For comparison, the distribution of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity (ChAT-IR) and AChE-positive elements in the retina was investigated. While the distributional patterns of ChAT-IR and strongly AChE-positive perikarya in the retina are similar and may represent the same neuronal population, ChAT-IR and AChE-positive elements in the pineal organ appear to belong to separate populations. In the retina, small- to medium-sized perikarya in the inner nuclear layer, and small perikarya in the ganglion cell layer are ChAT-IR and AChE positive. The entire inner plexiform layer is AChE positive, while only sublaminae 1, 2 and 4 are ChAT-IR. No indication of cholinergic activity was observed in the optic axon layer. In the pineal organ, ChAT-IR is restricted to small perikarya situated rostrally and dorsally in the pineal end-vesicle. AChE-positive neurons are present throughout the pineal end-vesicle and the pineal stalk. The pineal tract (the pinealofugally projecting axons of intrapineal neurons) is strongly AChE positive, but displays no ChAT-IR. The distribution of pinealofugally projecting neurons, labeled with retrogradely transported HRP, is markedly dissimilar to that of the ChAT-IR elements. It is proposed that the photosensory pineal organ transmits photic information to the brain via a non-cholinergic pathway. The possibility that the ChAT-IR neurons represent small local interneurons is discussed in the light of comparative physiological and anatomical findings.


External organisations
  • Justus Liebig University Giessen
Research areas and keywords


  • Acetylcholinesterase, Choline acetyltransferase, Horseradish-peroxidase (HRP), transport, Photoreceptors, extraocular, Phoxinus hoxinus (Teleostei, Cyprinidae), Pineal organ, Retina
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-329
Number of pages9
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1986 Nov 1
Publication categoryResearch