Properties of layer 6 pyramidal neuron apical dendrites

J Neurosci. 2010 Sep 29;30(39):13031-44. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2254-10.2010.


Layer 6 (L6) pyramidal neurons are the only neocortical pyramidal cell type whose apical dendrite terminates in layer 4 rather than layer 1. Like layer 5 pyramidal neurons, they participate in a feedback loop with the thalamus and project to other cortical areas. Despite their unique location in the cortical microcircuit, synaptic integration in dendrites of L6 neurons has never been investigated. Given that all other neocortical pyramidal neurons perform active integration of synaptic inputs via local dendritic spike generation, we were interested to establish the apical dendritic properties of L6 pyramidal neurons. We measured active and passive properties of the apical dendrites of L6 pyramidal neurons in the somatosensory region of rat cortical slices using dual patch-clamp recordings from somata and dendrites and calcium imaging. We found that L6 pyramidal neurons share many fundamental dendritic properties with other neocortical pyramidal neurons, including the generation of local dendritic spikes under the control of dendritic inhibition, voltage-dependent support of backpropagating action potentials, timing-dependent dendritic integration, distally located I(h) channels, frequency-dependent Ca(2+) spike activation, and NMDA spike electrogenesis in the distal apical dendrite. The results suggest that L6 pyramidal neurons integrate synaptic inputs in layer 4 similar to the way other neocortical pyramidal neurons integrate input to layer 1. Thus, L6 pyramidal neurons can perform a similar associational task operating on inputs arriving at the granular and subgranular layers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Neocortex / cytology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging / methods