Synaptic organization of serotonin‐immunoreactive fibers in primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey

Ana D. de Lima, Floyd E. Bloom, John H. Morrison

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The macaque neocortex is very densely innervated by serotonin‐containing fibers. The highest density of these fibers is in primary sensory regions such as the primary visual cortex. By using an antibody against serotonin, we analyzed the distribution and morphology of serotonin‐immunoreactive fibers and synapses in the primary visual cortex of the adult cynomolgus monkey. In addition, we quantified the laminar distribution of labeled varicosities and the distances between varicosities in single fibers. While serotonin‐immunoreactive fibers are found in all cortical layers, at least three bands of heightened density of innervation were readily recognized that were coincident with (1) layer IIIB to IVCα, (2) layer VA, and (3) layer VIB. Layer IVCα of area 17 contained more varicosities per unit area than any other sublayer. There was a high degree of variability in the intervaricosity distances along single fibers; more than half were longer than 10 μm. At the electron microscopic level, synaptic contacts were also observed throughout the entire thickness of area 17, with the highest frequency in layer IV. The labeled varicosities were packed with electron‐lucent synaptic vesicles and formed synaptic complexes with small, but conspicuous, postsynaptic densities. Dendritic shafts were the most common postsynaptic target of the labeled synapses. Among these characteristically slender postsynaptic shafts, profiles with structural features of both spiny and smooth dendrites were observed. The small diameter of most of the postsynaptic dendrites indicated that distal dendrites were preferentially contacted by serotonin‐immunoreactive varicosities. Although direct identification of the postsynaptic neurons will be required for complete characterization of this circuitry, the distribution of serotonin‐immunoreactive varicosities suggests that serotoninergic interactions in the primary visual cortex of the cynomolgus monkey are directed predominantly at the distal dendrites of granular and infragranular neurons rather than at targets in the supragranular layers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-294
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 8 Aug 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • EM immunocytochemistry
  • cynomolgus monkey
  • extrathalamic afferents
  • indolamines
  • monoamines


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