In patients with temporal lobe epilepsy some dentate granule cells develop basal dendrites. The extent of excitatory synaptic input to basal dendrites is unclear, nor is it known whether basal dendrites receive inhibitory synapses. We used biocytin to intracellularly label individual granule cells with basal dendrites in epileptic pilocarpine-treated rats. An average basal dendrite had 3.9 branches, was 612 microm long, and accounted for 16% of a cell's total dendritic length. In vivo intracellular labeling and postembedding GABA-immunocytochemistry were used to evaluate synapses with basal dendrites reconstructed from serial electron micrographs. An average of 7% of 1,802 putative synapses were formed by GABA-positive axon terminals, indicating synaptogenesis by interneurons. Ninety-three percent of the identified synapses were GABA-negative. Most GABA-negative synapses were with spines, but at least 10% were with dendritic shafts. Multiplying basal dendrite length/cell and synapse density yielded an estimate of 180 inhibitory and 2,140 excitatory synapses per granule cell basal dendrite. Based on previous estimates of synaptic input to granule cells in control rats, these findings suggest an average basal dendrite receives approximately 14% of the total inhibitory and 19% of excitatory synapses of a cell. These findings reveal that basal dendrites are a novel source of inhibitory input, but they primarily receive excitatory synapses.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.