Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
The morphology of neurons in the ventral basal complex (VBC) of the adult opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is described from thick coronal brain sections, using Golgi-, horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-, and Nissl-staining methods. Soma cross-sectional area, dendritic field shape, and the number of appendages (spines) in a defined major branch zone (MBZ) are quantified and statistically analyzed. Results indicate that neurons in opossum VBC have relatively large cell bodies, dendrites which branch in a tufted pattern, and numerous dendritic appendages. These neurons are designated as relay cells because of (1) their tufted dendritic branch patterns, considered characteristic of thalamic relay cells (Ramon-Moliner, '62), and (2) the similarity of their soma sizes with HRP-labeled somata after somatosensory cortical injections. Neurons with traditionally described interneuron morphology do not appear to be present in the VBC of this animal, and, in this respect, the neuronal morphology of opossum VBC is similar to that in rat (McAllister and Wells, '81).Based on statistical analysis of the structural features observed, the presumed relay cells in opossum VBC do not show significant differences in morphology, and consequently are not subdivided into classes. Opossum VBC neurons are recognized as forming a single category in which broad and continuous variations in morphology are indicated. Recognition of a singular class of relay cell is consistent with descriptions for rat and cat VBC (Scheibel and Scheibel, '66), but at variance with a previous report for the primate Galago VBC (Pearson and Haines, '80) subdividing thalamic relay cells into Types I, II, and intermediate categories.
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