Excitatory and inhibitory neurons express c-Fos in barrel-related columns after exploration of a novel environment

Neuroscience. 2002;109(4):687-99. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(01)00501-2.


Recent work has shown that behaviorally meaningful sensory information processing is accompanied by the induction of several transcription factors in the barrel cortex of rodents. It is now generally accepted that stimulus-transcription coupling is an important step in the sequence of events leading to long-term plastic changes in neuronal structure and function. Nevertheless, so far few data are available as to what types of neurons are involved in such a genomic response. Here, we determined the morphological and neurochemical identity of neurons in rat barrel cortex showing a c-Fos-immunoreactive nucleus after exploration of an enriched environment. Double stainings of c-Fos and glial fibrillary acidic protein excluded astrocytes as a possible cell type expressing this transcription factor. By morphological phenotyping with intracellular Lucifer Yellow injections, it was found that a large majority were probably excitatory pyramidal cells, but inhibitory interneurons were also found to contain c-Fos-immunoreactive nuclei. By neurochemical phenotyping of GABAergic interneurons with specific antibodies, a significant induction was found, in a layer-dependent manner, for the populations of glutamic acid decarboxylase-, parvalbumin-, calbindin- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-immunoreactive neurons but not for calretinin-immunoreactive cells in experimental compared to control columns. From these data we conclude that thalamic afferents effectively drive cortical excitatory as well as inhibitory intracortical circuits. Thus, the adaptations of receptive field properties of cortical neurons after different manipulations of the sensory periphery are likely to be caused by plastic changes in excitatory and inhibitory networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Isoquinolines
  • Male
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism*
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / metabolism*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism
  • Vibrissae / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Isoenzymes
  • Isoquinolines
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • lucifer yellow
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase
  • glutamate decarboxylase 2