Electrophysiological evidence of monosynaptic excitatory transmission between granule cells after seizure-induced mossy fiber sprouting

J Neurophysiol. 2003 Oct;90(4):2536-47. doi: 10.1152/jn.00251.2003.


Mossy fiber sprouting is a form of synaptic reorganization in the dentate gyrus that occurs in human temporal lobe epilepsy and animal models of epilepsy. The axons of dentate gyrus granule cells, called mossy fibers, develop collaterals that grow into an abnormal location, the inner third of the dentate gyrus molecular layer. Electron microscopy has shown that sprouted fibers from synapses on both spines and dendritic shafts in the inner molecular layer, which are likely to represent the dendrites of granule cells and inhibitory neurons. One of the controversies about this phenomenon is whether mossy fiber sprouting contributes to seizures by forming novel recurrent excitatory circuits among granule cells. To date, there is a great deal of indirect evidence that suggests this is the case, but there are also counterarguments. The purpose of this study was to determine whether functional monosynaptic connections exist between granule cells after mossy fiber sprouting. Using simultaneous recordings from granule cells, we obtained direct evidence that granule cells in epileptic rats have monosynaptic excitatory connections with other granule cells. Such connections were not obtained when age-matched, saline control rats were examined. The results suggest that indeed mossy fiber sprouting provides a substrate for monosynaptic recurrent excitation among granule cells in the dentate gyrus. Interestingly, the characteristics of the excitatory connections that were found indicate that the pathway is only weakly excitatory. These characteristics may contribute to the empirical observation that the sprouted dentate gyrus does not normally generate epileptiform discharges.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Seizures / physiopathology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology