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System-specific distribution of zinc in the chick brain

A light- and electron-microscopic study using the Timm method


The brain of young domestic chicks was investigated using a Timm sulfide silver method. Serial Vibratome sections were analyzed under the light microscope, and the localization of zinc-positive structures in selected areas was determined at the ultrastructural level. Both strong and differential staining was visible in the avian telencephalon whereas most subtelencephalic structures showed a pale reaction. The highest staining intensity was found in the nonprimary sensory regions of the telencephalon such as the hyperstriatum dorsale, hyperstriatum ventrale, hippocampus, palaeostriatum augmentatum, lobus parolfactorius and caudal parts of neostriatum. There was an overall gradient of staining intensity in neostriatal areas from rostral to caudal with the heaviest zinc deposits in the caudal neostriatum. Primary sensory projection areas, such as the ectostriatum (visual), hyperstriatum intercalatum superius (visual), nucleus basalis (beak representation), the input layer L2 of the auditory field L and the somatosensory area rostral to field L were selectively left unstained. Fiber tracts throughout the brain were free of zinc deposits except for glial cells. In electron micrographs of stained regions, silver grains were localized in some presynaptic boutons of asymmetric synapses (Gray type I), within the cytoplasm of neuronal somata and sporadically in the nucleus. The possible involvement of zinc in synaptic transmission and other processes is discussed.

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Ac :

Nucleus accumbens

Ad :

Archistriatum dorsale

Ai :

Archistriatum intermedium

Am :

Archistriatum mediale

Ap :

Archistriatum posterior


Area parahippocampalis


Nucleus basalis

BO :

Bulbus olfactorius

Cb :


CbI :

Nucleus cerebellaris internus

CbM :

Nucleus cerebellaris intermedius


Area corticoidea dorsolateralis

CPi :

Cortex piriformis

CT :

Commissura tectalis


Nucleus dorsomedialis posterior thalami

E :


H :


HA :

Hyperstriatum accessorium

HD :

Hyperstriatum dorsale


Hyperstriatum intercalatum superius

Hp :


HV :

Hyperstriatum ventrale

ICo :

Nucleus intercollicularis

Ipc :

Nucleus isthmi, pars parvocellularis

L :


L 1, 2, 3 :

Field L

La :

Nucleus laminaris


Lamina frontalis suprema


Lamina frontalis superior

LH :

Lamina hyperstriatica


Lamina medullaris dorsalis


Rostrolateral neostriatum/Hyperstriatum ventrale


Lobus parolfactorius

M :


MLd :

Nucleus mesencephalicus lateralis, pars dorsalis


Rostromedial neostriatum/Hyperstriatum ventrale

N :


NC :

Neostriatum caudale


Nucleus of ectostriatal belt


Nucleus of HA

PA :

Palaeostriatum augmentatum

Pap :

Nucleus papillioformis

PL :

Nucleus pontis lateralis

PP :

Palaeostriatum primitivum

RP :

Nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis

Rt :

Nucleus rotundus

S :

Nucleus septalis

SS :

Somatosensory area

TeO :

Tectum opticum

Tn :

Nucleus taeniae


Area temporoparieto-occipitalis

V :


Va :



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Correspondence to Heidi Faber.

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Faber, H., Braun, K., Zuschratter, W. et al. System-specific distribution of zinc in the chick brain. Cell Tissue Res. 258, 247–257 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00239445

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Key words

  • Zinc
  • Timm method
  • Ultrastructure
  • Synapses
  • Avian brain
  • Domestic fowl