Human-specific organization of primary visual cortex: alternating compartments of dense Cat-301 and calbindin immunoreactivity in layer 4A.
There is evidence that the cortical anatomy of the magnocellular (M) visual pathway, which carries information about motion and luminance contrast, was modified in human evolution. Recent results indicate that layer 4A of humans contains a meshwork of tissue bands that stain densely for nonphosphorylated neurofilament (NPNF), a protein that is preferentially expressed in elements of the M pathway, whereas apes and monkeys lack a comparable pattern. Here we examined the distribution of staining for Cat-301 -- a monoclonal antibody well established to stain M-related structures preferentially -- in area V1 of humans, apes (chimpanzees, orangutan), Old World monkeys (macaques) and New World monkeys (spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys). Single-staining experiments, using a peroxidase-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) reaction, revealed alternating zones of dark and light staining for Cat-301 in layer 4A of humans, similar to those observed with NPNF. Double-staining studies in humans revealed that Cat-301-immunoreactive somas and neuropil were localized within the same tissue bands that stained strongly for NPNF and, furthermore, that these bands alternated with irregularly shaped territories that stained very strongly for calbindin. Nonhuman primates, by contrast to humans, displayed weak Cat-301 and calbindin staining in layer 4A. The co-localization of Cat-301 and NPNF in human layer 4A, and the weak staining for these molecules in layer 4A of other primates, suggests that the cortical representation of the M channel was modified in recent human evolution. The calbindin-rich compartments in human layer 4A cannot be related to a particular geniculostriate pathway on neurochemical grounds; they may constitute an interneuronal population that increased in human evolution.