Organization of intrahippocampal projections originating from CA3 pyramidal cells in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1990 May 22;295(4):580-623. doi: 10.1002/cne.902950407.


The distribution of intrahippocampal projections arising from the CA3 region of the rat hippocampus was investigated using in vitro and in vivo methods. In the in vitro hippocampal slice preparation, single CA3 pyramidal cells were intracellularly labeled with horseradish peroxidase (HRP), and the three-dimensional organization of the axonal plexus was analyzed by using a computer-aided digitizing system. As many as eight primary collaterals originated from the principal axon of CA3 pyramidal cells and these commonly bifurcated further and innervated stratum oriens and stratum radiatum of CA3 and CA1. Within the 400 microns slice, the summed length of all visible collaterals per neuron ranged from 2.6 mm to approximately 12.5 mm. While the CA3 principal axon tended to be relatively smooth, the axonal collaterals bore numerous varicosities that electron microscopy confirmed to be presynaptic boutons. These varicosities occurred, on average, once every 7 microns of collateral length. The distribution of axonal collaterals differed depending on the location of the parent pyramidal cell. Only rarely could CA3 collaterals be followed in the slice to their terminations within CA1. To study the topographic organization of CA3 projections both to other levels of CA3 and to CA1, the anterograde tracer, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) was injected into various transverse and septotemporal levels of CA3. Immunohistochemical visualization of the lectin was conducted in dissected and "extended" hippocampi to facilitate analysis of the topographic distribution of projections along the long or septotemporal axis. Projections from all portions of CA3 reached widespread regions of CA3, CA2, and CA1, but only a few fibers entered the subicular complex and there were no projections to the entorhinal cortex. There were also some CA3 and CA2 projections to the hilus of the dentate gyrus, but these did not enter the granule cell or molecular layers. The CA3 projections to CA1 were organized according to several distinctive and consistent gradients that can generally be summarized as follows. 1. CA3 cells located close to the dentate gyrus (proximal CA3), while projecting both septally and temporally, tended to project more heavily to levels of CA1 located septal to the injection site. CA3 cells located closer to CA1, in contrast, projected more heavily to levels of CA1 located temporally to the injection site. 2. At, or close to, the septotemporal level of the injection, cells located proximally in CA3 gave rise to collaterals that tended to terminate more superficially in stratum radiatum than did those arising from mid and distal levels of CA3.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants