Oxytocin and vasopressin neurosecretory neurons of the supraoptic nucleus receive a rich glutamatergic innervation. The nerve cells of this prominent structure express various ionotropic and metabotropic glutamate receptor subtypes and there is converging evidence that glutamate acts as an excitatory transmitter in the control of release of oxytocin and vasopressin synthesized in this cell group. The location of the glutamatergic neurons projecting to this hypothalamic region is unknown. The aim of the present investigation was to study this question. [3H]D-aspartate, which is selectively taken up by high-affinity uptake sites at presynaptic endings that use glutamate as a transmitter, and is transported back to the cell body, was injected into the supraoptic nucleus area. The neurons retrogradely labelled with [3H]D-aspartate were detected autoradiographically. Labelled nerve cells were found in several diencephalic and telencephalic structures, but not in the brainstem. Diencephalic cell groups included the supraoptic nucleus itself, its perinuclear area, hypothalamic paraventricular, suprachiasmatic, ventromedial, dorsomedial, ventral premammillary, supramammillary and thalamic paraventricular nuclei. Within the telencephalon, labelled neurons were detected in the septum, amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and preoptic area. The findings provide neuromorphological data on the location of putative glutamatergic neurons projecting to the supraoptic nucleus and its perinuclear area. Furthermore, they indicate that local putative glutamatergic neurons as well as several diencephalic and telencephalic structures contribute to the glutamatergic innervation of the cell group and thus are involved in the control of oxytocin and vasopressin release by neurosecretory neurons of the nucleus.
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