Calretinin-containing neurons were visualized by immunocytochemistry in the monkey hippocampal formation, subicular complex, and entorhinal cortex. Calretinin-immunoreactivity was present exclusively in non-granule cells of the dentate gyrus and in non-pyramidal cells of Ammon's horn, subiculum and entorhinal cortex. Most frequently, calretinin-positive neurons were found at the hilar border of the dentate granule cell layer and in the stratum radiatum of CA1-3 areas. In the subicular complex, immunoreactive neurons were evenly distributed in all layers, whereas in the entorhinal cortex, they were accumulated in external layers above the lamina dissecans. Distinct bands of calretinin-positive fibers occupied the supragranular zone of the molecular layer in dentate gyrus, the pyramidal cell layer of the CA2 area in Ammon's horn and the upper two layers of presubiculum. The majority of calretinin-immunoreactive neurons were small, bipolar or fusiform neurons with a dendritic tree oriented parallel to the dendrites of principal cells (granule cells in dentate gyrus and pyramidal neurons elsewhere). Dendrites were smooth or sparsely spiny, displaying small spines of conventional type. Co-existence studies showed that these neurons were completely devoid of other calcium-binding proteins, parvalbumin and calbindin. Electron microscopic analysis revealed somata of immunoreactive neurons which contained a large nucleus and a small cytoplasmic rim, which contained only few organelles. The nucleus displayed deep infoldings and intranuclear rods. Input synapses of immunoreactive neurons were rare both on somata and dendrites and large surface areas were frequently apposed by glial processes. This was very prominent in the dentate gyrus and Ammon's horn. Axons of calretinin-positive neurons were thin, arborized in all layers and had small varicosities. Their terminals formed symmetric synaptic contacts mainly with dendrites and less frequently with somata of principal cells. Axon terminals of calretinin-immunoreactive fiber bundles in the supragranular layer, as well as in the pyramidal layer of the CA2 area, formed asymmetric synaptic contacts with dendritic shafts. In addition, they established asymmetric axospinous and axosomatic synaptic contacts with granule cells of the dentate gyrus. In the presubiculum, the calretinin-positive axon bundle included a large number of immunoreactive myelinated axons, as well as axon terminals. The characteristic location and features of synapses suggests that these fibers derive from extra-hippocampal afferents (Nitsch, R. and Leranth C. (1993) Neuroscience 55, 797-812) and not from the calretinin-immunoreactive neurons of the hippocampal formation.
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