Light and electron microscopic peroxidase-antiperoxidase immunocytochemistry has been used to localize choline acetyltransferase, substance P and enkephalin in the hypoglossal nucleus of the rat. Choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity was observed in motoneurone cell bodies and proximal dendrites, in large varicosities in the surrounding neuropil and in nerve terminals in synaptic contact with immunostained motoneurones. Most choline acetyltransferase immunostained terminals which made synaptic contact with motoneurone cell bodies and proximal dendrites possessed prominent subsynaptic cisterns and belong to the terminal type referred to in the literature as C or L. Substance P and enkephalin immunoreactivity did not occur in motoneurones but was seen in fibres and synaptic terminals. Substance P immunoreactive fibres made multiple axosomatic contacts while enkephalin immunoreactive terminals made synaptic contact mainly with large and small dendrites. C terminals were not stained for either substance P or enkephalin. This study provides immunocytochemical support for the classic identification of hypoglossal motoneurones as cholinergic and in addition shows that these neurones are innervated by a number of morphologically and chemically distinct terminal types. C terminals have previously been shown to contain cholinesterase and our demonstration that these terminals contain choline acetyltranferase thus provides additional evidence for their cholinergic nature and for a cholinergic innervation of hypoglossal motoneurones. The origin of the immunoreactive terminals was not identified in this study but possible candidates include the raphe nuclei for substance P and propriobulbar interneurones for choline acetyltransferase. © 1986.
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