On the identification of the afferent axon terminals in the nucleus lateralis of the cerebellum an electron microscope study

Research paper by Victoria Chan-Palay

Indexed on: 01 Jan '73Published on: 01 Jan '73Published in: Anatomy and embryology


Axon terminals in the neuropil of the lateral nucleus can be divided into six classes, each with a specific constellation of characteristics that consistently occur together. Two of these classes have synaptic varicosities with elliptical synaptic vesicles, one in a dense, the other in a sparse matrix, and both make axosomatic and axodendritic synapses. The remaining four classes all have round synaptic vesicles and do not make axosomatic synapses. In the first of these four, the vesicles are tightly packed in a dense matrix, in another they are loosely dispersed, and in the third they are clustered. In the fourth, large granular vesicles predominate. Of these six classes, the most numerous belong to the axons of the Purkinje cell terminal arborization. These boutons resemble their counterparts in the cerebellar cortex, the recurrent collaterals of the Purkinje axon. They have elliptical and flat synaptic vesicles in a dark matrix. The varicosities terminate on somata and dendrites of large and small neurons and constitute the majority of their input. Purkinje axons constitute 86% of the total population of terminals on large neuronal perikarya and 50% of those on their dendrites, but only 78% on the somata of small neurons and 31% on their dendrites. The terminals of climbing fiber collaterals are recognized by their resemblance in electron micrographs to the terminals of the climbing fiber arborization in the cerebellar cortex. They bear round synaptic vesicles packed into a dense axoplasmic matrix and make Gray's type 1 axodendritic synapses with large and small neurons. These axons are restricted to the lateral and ventral aspects of the nucleus and constitute 5% of the terminals on large cell dendrites and 6% of those on small neurons. The axons tentatively identified as collaterals of mossy fibers are myelinated fibers with a light axoplasm containing round synaptic vesicles, dispersed throughout their varicosities. They make Gray's type 1 synapses and constitute a fair percentage of the total axodendritic contacts in the neuropil, 22% on large neurons and 28% on small neurons. The bases for these tentative identifications are discussed in detail, as are the various synaptic relationships undertaken by each class of axon. The remaining 4 classes of axons of the neuropil will be described in subsequent papers.