Subtypes of GABAergic interneurons (INs) are crucial for cortical function, yet their specific roles are largely unknown. In contrast to supra- and infragranular layers, where most somatostatin-expressing (SOM) INs are layer 1-targeting Martinotti cells, the axons of SOM INs in layer 4 of somatosensory cortex largely remain within layer 4. Moreover, we found that whereas layers 2/3 SOM INs target mainly pyramidal cells (PCs), layer 4 SOM INs target mainly fast-spiking (FS) INs. Accordingly, optogenetic inhibition of SOM INs in an active cortical network increases the firing of layers 2/3 PCs whereas it decreases the firing of layer 4 principal neurons (PNs). This unexpected effect of SOM INs on layer 4 PNs occurs via their inhibition of local FS INs. These results reveal a disinhibitory microcircuit in the thalamorecipient layer through interactions among subtypes of INs and suggest that the SOM IN-mediated disinhibition represents an important circuit mechanism for cortical information processing.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.