The synaptic organization of thalamic inputs to motor cortices remains poorly understood in primates. Thus, we compared the regional and synaptic connections of vGluT2-positive thalamocortical glutamatergic terminals in the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the primary motor cortex (M1) between control and MPTP-treated parkinsonian monkeys. In controls, vGluT2-containing fibers and terminal-like profiles invaded layer II-III and Vb of M1 and SMA. A significant reduction of vGluT2 labeling was found in layer Vb, but not in layer II-III, of parkinsonian animals, suggesting a potential thalamic denervation of deep cortical layers in parkinsonism. There was a significant difference in the pattern of synaptic connectivity in layers II-III, but not in layer Vb, between M1 and SMA of control monkeys. However, this difference was abolished in parkinsonian animals. No major difference was found in the proportion of perforated versus macular post-synaptic densities at thalamocortical synapses between control and parkinsonian monkeys in both cortical regions, except for a slight increase in the prevalence of perforated axo-dendritic synapses in the SMA of parkinsonian monkeys. Our findings suggest that disruption of the thalamic innervation of M1 and SMA may underlie pathophysiological changes of the motor thalamocortical loop in the state of parkinsonism.
Published by Oxford University Press 2021.