Aging is associated with impairments in learning and memory and a greater incidence of limbic seizures. These changes in the aged brain have been associated with increased excitability of hippocampal pyramidal cells caused by a reduced number of gamma-aminobutyric acid-ergic (GABAergic) interneurons. To better understand these issues, we performed cell counts of GABAergic interneurons and examined GABA efflux and GABAergic inhibition in area CA1 of the hippocampus of young (3-5 months) and aged (26-30 months) rats. Aging significantly reduced high K(+)/Ca(2+)-evoked GABA, but not glutamate efflux in area CA1. Immunostaining revealed a significant loss of GABAergic interneurons, but not inhibitory boutons in stratum oriens and stratum lacunosum moleculare. Somatostatin-immunoreactive oriens-lacunosum moleculare (O-LM) cells, but not parvalbumin-containing interneurons were selectively lost. Oriens-lacunosum moleculare cells project to distal dendrites of CA1 pyramidal cells, providing dendritic inhibition. Accordingly, inhibition of dendritic input to CA1 from entorhinal cortex was selectively reduced. These findings suggest that the age-dependent loss of interneurons impairs dendritic inhibition and dysregulates entorhinal cortical input to CA1, potentially contributing to cognitive impairment and seizures.
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