The mossy cells of the fascia dentata: A comparative study of their fine structure and synaptic connections in rodents and primates

Michael Frotscher, László Seress, Walter K. Schwerdtfeger, Eberhard Buhl

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163 Citations (Scopus)


In this study the fine structure and synaptic connections of mossy cells in the rat and monkey fascia dentata were analyzed. In order to study commissural connections of identified mossy cells in the rat, hilar neurons were retrogradely labeled by horseradish peroxidase (HRP) or Fast Blue (FB) injections into the contralateral hippocampus. Vibratome sections containing retrogradely HRP‐labeled hilar neurons were Golgi‐impregnated and gold‐toned. Hilar commissural neurons identified by contralateral FB injection were intracellularly labeled with Lucifer Yellow (LY). Lucifer Yellow staining was made electron‐dense by photoconversion thereby allowing for an electron microscopic analysis of the retrogradely labeled and intracellularly stained neurons. With these two different approaches, we succeeded in identifying rat mossy cells projecting to the contralateral hippocampus. Mossy cells in the fascia dentata of primates (Papio anubis, Macaca mulatto, Saimiri sciureus) were, like mossy cells of rats, either Golgi‐impregnated and gold‐toned or intracellularly injected with LY. No major differences were found between mossy cells of rats and monkeys. The mossy cell dendrites originated from the two sides of an ovoid cell body and were mainly oriented parallel to the granule cell layer. In contrast to the rat, dendrites of mossy cells in the primate did not respect the granule cell layer and penetrated frequently into the molecular layer. The occurrence of excrescences on proximal dendrites was a characteristic feature of all mossy cells. These large spines were more complex in the primate than in the rat. In both rats and primates they formed numerous asymmetric synapses with large boutons of mossy fibers. Peripheral dendrites were covered with small, simple spines. Interestingly, these peripheral dendrites lacking excrescences also established asymmetric synapses with mossy fiber boutons as well as asymmetric and symmetric contacts with smaller terminals of unknown origin. These findings indicate that in both rats and primates the thorny excrescences are not the only target of the mossy terminals. While the proximal portions of the mossy cell dendrites appear to be exclusively contacted by the granule cells, a larger number of neuron types may converge on the distal dendrites. The axons of mossy cells, in both rats and primates, although incompletely stained with the present methods, were seen to ramify in‐the hilar region. Our results demonstrate that, despite minor species differences, the mossy cells of the fascia dentata represent a cell type that is preserved in phylogenetically distant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-163
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1991


  • commissural connections
  • hilar neurons
  • monkey
  • mossy fibers
  • rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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