Postnatal neurogenesis contributes substantially to the neuronal population of the adult dentate gyrus. We report here that the neurons located in the deep aspects of the granule cell layer, near the proliferative zone, have different properties from those located in the superficial layers. The former group of neurons, tentatively designated as young, can be readily identified in a standard hippocampal slice preparation by morphological, immunohistochemical, and electrophysiological criteria. Electrophysiological recordings and imaging with Lucifer yellow from these neurons in the standard hippocampal slice preparation showed one or two main dendrites and conically shaped branches possessing varicose protrusions. These features are in agreement with the appearance of the same population of young neurons immunopositive for TOAD-64, a marker for immature neurons. In disinhibited slices, these putative young neurons are distinguished from the mature neurons, located in the superficial granule cell layer, by showing paired pulse facilitation and having a lower threshold for induction of long-term potentiation. The putative young neurons are completely unaffected by GABA(A) inhibition and always display robust long-term potentiation. In contrast, the mature neurons never produce long-term potentiation when the GABA(A) inhibition is intact. We propose that the heterogeneity of the functional properties of the granule neurons is related to the ongoing neurogenesis in the adult animals.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.