Ipsilateral, ventral corticospinal tract of the adult rat: ultrastructure, myelination and synaptic connections
J Neurocytol 29(7): 499-507
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The corticospinal tract (CST) of the rat is a widely used model system in developmental, physiological, and regeneration studies. The CST of the rat consists of a main tract, that runs in the dorsomedial funiculus and several minor components. We have shown earlier that one of the minor components, the ipsilateral, ventral CST, projects all the way down the spinal cord in the adult rat and single fibers form large terminal arbors in their spinal target areas. Here we investigated its ultrastructure and compared it to that of CST fibers of the main tract. By the use of anterograde axonal tracing with biotin dextran-amine (BDA) and pre-embedding avidin-peroxidase histochemistry we investigated axon diameters and myelination using electron microscopy. Ipsilateral, ventral CST fibers were found to run in the ventral funiculus close to the midline. They were intermingled with heavily myelinated large diameter axons, presumably reticulospinal, vestibulospinal, or tectospinal fibers. Ipsilateral, ventral CST fibers were of small diameter (0.68 microm, +/-0.04) and about [frac34] of them were moderately myelinated (9.64 +/- 0.7 layers of myelin). Co-localization of a rhodamine-dextrane anterograde tracer with the presynaptic marker synaptophysin using confocal microscopy and electron microscopy revealed varicosities on terminal arborisations to be presynaptic boutons and clearly demonstrated contacts to neurons in intermediate laminae of the spinal cord at lumbar spinal levels. This study extends our earlier work indicating that the ipsilateral, ventral CST component of the adult rat is a morphologically complete CST component and may perform similar functions to the main CST component.