Quantitative morphometry of electrophysiologically identified CA3b interneurons reveals robust local geometry and distinct cell classes

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Aug 20;515(6):677-95. doi: 10.1002/cne.22082.


The morphological and electrophysiological diversity of inhibitory cells in hippocampal area CA3 may underlie specific computational roles and is not yet fully elucidated. In particular, interneurons with somata in strata radiatum (R) and lacunosum-moleculare (L-M) receive converging stimulation from the dentate gyrus and entorhinal cortex as well as within CA3. Although these cells express different forms of synaptic plasticity, their axonal trees and connectivity are still largely unknown. We investigated the branching and spatial patterns, plus the membrane and synaptic properties, of rat CA3b R and L-M interneurons digitally reconstructed after intracellular labeling. We found considerable variability within but no difference between the two layers, and no correlation between morphological and biophysical properties. Nevertheless, two cell types were identified based on the number of dendritic bifurcations, with significantly different anatomical and electrophysiological features. Axons generally branched an order of magnitude more than dendrites. However, interneurons on both sides of the R/L-M boundary revealed surprisingly modular axodendritic arborizations with consistently uniform local branch geometry. Both axons and dendrites followed a lamellar organization, and axons displayed a spatial preference toward the fissure. Moreover, only a small fraction of the axonal arbor extended to the outer portion of the invaded volume, and tended to return toward the proximal region. In contrast, dendritic trees demonstrated more limited but isotropic volume occupancy. These results suggest a role of predominantly local feedforward and lateral inhibitory control for both R and L-M interneurons. Such a role may be essential to balance the extensive recurrent excitation of area CA3 underlying hippocampal autoassociative memory function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Interneurons* / classification
  • Interneurons* / cytology
  • Interneurons* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism


  • Receptors, AMPA