Two to six months after implantation of fetal striatal primordia into the kainic acid-lesioned neostriatum of adult rats, spiny neurons in the grafts were stained intracellularly with biocytin. To determine whether the spiny neurons in the grafts differentiate morphologically as in the host neostriatum, the intracellularly stained spiny neurons in the grafts were studied with light and electron microscopy and compared with that of spiny neurons in the host neostriatum. The spiny neurons in the grafts had ovoid or polygonal cell bodies with dendrites radiating in all directions. The somata were smooth and the dendrites, except for their most proximal portions, were rich in spines. All these features resembled the appearance of spiny neurons in the intact neostriatum. However, quantitative studies showed that the somata of spiny neurons in the grafts were larger than those in the host neostriatum (projected cross-sectional areas of 230 ± 64.6 μm2 in the grafts and 158 ± 28.9 μm2 in the host) and the spine density of graft neurons was lower than that of host neurons. Cells near the border of the grafts had dendrites extending both into the graft and into the host neostriatum. In these cells, the dendrites in the grafts had fewer spines than the dendrites in the host tissue. The axons of spiny neurons in the grafts had very large and dense intrastriatal collateral arborizations, which occupied a much larger volume than that of the dendritic domain of the parent cells. The local axonal arborizations of each of these cells filled almost the entire graft. In some cells, axonal branches were traced outside the grafts and were seen to enter the internal capsule fascicles. Unlike spiny neurons in the normal adult neostriatum, the spiny cells of the graft could have nuclear indentations. With this exception, the ultrastructural features of spiny neurons in the grafts were very similar to those in the hosts. Many unlabeled boutons made synapses on identified spiny neurons in the grafts. Terminals with small round vesicles made synaptic contacts on dendritic shafts and dendritic spines, while terminals with flattened or pleomorphic vesicles contacted somata, dendrites, and dendritic spines. Labeled axon collaterals of graft neurons made symmetrical synapses on somata, dendrites and spines in the grafts and in the host neostriatum. In the grafts, more than 60% of the axon terminals contacted dendritic shafts. The proportion of axosomatic and axospinous synapses varied substantially from cell to cell. These results show that the spiny neurons in striatal grafts possess the general somatodendritic features of spiny neurons in the adult neostriatum, except for their lower dendritic spine density. The unusually dense intrastriatal collateral arborizations of spiny neurons may account for the unusually strong inhibitory responses exhibited by these neurons.
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