Synaptic junctions between sympathetic axon terminals and pinealocytes in the monkey Macaca fascicularis

E. A. Ling*, S. H. Tan, W. C. Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The distribution of axon terminals in the pineal gland of monkeys was studied by electron microscopy. Numerous terminals bearing small pleomorphic agranular and dense-cored vesicles were localized in the perivascular space and among the pinealocytes in the parenchyma in normal monkeys. Following bilateral superior cervical ganglionectomy, they underwent degenerative changes, including the accumulation of glycogen masses, appearance of dense residual bodies and the displacement of synaptic vesicles. Some of these degenerating terminals showed synaptic contacts with the cell bodies of pinealocytes. At the synaptic junction the postsynaptic membrane was thickened asymmetrically. Examples of synaptic contacts were most frequently observed in 5 and 7 days postoperative animals. In the longer surviving (30 days) monkey, most of the axon terminals showed round agranular vesicles, and they were mainly presynaptic to the intrapineal ganglion cells with some of the pinealocytes. They remained structurally unchanged following the resection of both the superior cervical ganglia. A few axon terminals containing small dense-cored vesicles appeared to have survived the initial insult, but some of their vesicles appeared swollen 30 days after the operation. It is concluded from this study that some of the pinealocytes are under the influence by the postganglionic neurons in the superior cervical ganglia through direct synaptic contacts. The intrapineal ganglion cells are postsynaptic to fibres originating exclusively from the central nervous system. Some of these fibres, however, may be presynaptic directly to pinealocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalAnatomy and Embryology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon terminals
  • Bilateral superior cervical ganglionectomy
  • Monkey
  • Pinealocytes
  • Synapses


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