Selective, state-dependent activation of somatostatin-expressing inhibitory interneurons in mouse neocortex

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Nov;100(5):2640-52. doi: 10.1152/jn.90691.2008. Epub 2008 Sep 17.


The specific functions of subtypes of cortical inhibitory neurons are not well understood. This is due in part to a dearth of information about the behaviors of interneurons under conditions when the surrounding circuit is in an active state. We investigated the firing behavior of a subset of inhibitory interneurons, identified using mice that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) in a subset of somatostatin-expressing inhibitory cells ("GFP-expressing inhibitory neuron" [GIN] cells). The somata of the GIN cells were in layer 2/3 of somatosensory cortex and had dense, layer 1-projecting axons that are characteristic of Martinotti neurons. Interestingly, GIN cells fired similarly during a variety of diverse activating conditions: when bathed in fluids with low-divalent cation concentrations, when stimulated with brief trains of local synaptic inputs, when exposed to group I metabotropic glutamate receptor agonists, or when exposed to muscarinic cholinergic receptor agonists. During these manipulations, GIN cells fired rhythmically and persistently in the theta-frequency range (3-10 Hz). Synchronous firing was often observed and its strength was directly proportional to the magnitude of electrical coupling between GIN cells. These effects were cell type specific: the four manipulations that persistently activated GIN cells rarely caused spiking of regular-spiking (RS) pyramidal cells or fast-spiking (FS) inhibitory interneurons. Our results suggest that supragranular GIN interneurons form an electrically coupled network that exerts a coherent 3- to 10-Hz inhibitory influence on its targets. Because GIN cells are more readily activated than RS and FS cells, it is possible that they act as "first responders" when cortical excitatory activity increases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / drug effects
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscarine / pharmacology
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Pyridazines / pharmacology
  • Somatostatin / metabolism*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Pyridazines
  • Picrotoxin
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Somatostatin
  • Muscarine
  • gabazine