The Dendrites of CA2 and CA1 Pyramidal Neurons Differentially Regulate Information Flow in the Cortico-Hippocampal Circuit

J Neurosci. 2017 Mar 22;37(12):3276-3293. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2219-16.2017. Epub 2017 Feb 17.


The impact of a given neuronal pathway depends on the number of synapses it makes with its postsynaptic target, the strength of each individual synapse, and the integrative properties of the postsynaptic dendrites. Here we explore the cellular and synaptic mechanisms responsible for the differential excitatory drive from the entorhinal cortical pathway onto mouse CA2 compared with CA1 pyramidal neurons (PNs). Although both types of neurons receive direct input from entorhinal cortex onto their distal dendrites, these inputs produce a 5- to 6-fold larger EPSP at the soma of CA2 compared with CA1 PNs, which is sufficient to drive action potential output from CA2 but not CA1. Experimental and computational approaches reveal that dendritic propagation is more efficient in CA2 than CA1 as a result of differences in dendritic morphology and dendritic expression of the hyperpolarization-activated cation current (Ih). Furthermore, there are three times as many cortical inputs onto CA2 compared with CA1 PN distal dendrites. Using a computational model, we demonstrate that the differences in dendritic properties of CA2 compared with CA1 PNs are necessary to enable the CA2 PNs to generate their characteristically large EPSPs in response to their cortical inputs; in contrast, CA1 dendritic properties limit the size of the EPSPs they generate, even to a similar number of cortical inputs. Thus, the matching of dendritic integrative properties with the density of innervation is crucial for the differential processing of information from the direct cortical inputs by CA2 compared with CA1 PNs.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Recent discoveries have shown that the long-neglected hippocampal CA2 region has distinct synaptic properties and plays a prominent role in social memory and schizophrenia. This study addresses the puzzling finding that the direct entorhinal cortical inputs to hippocampus, which target the very distal pyramidal neuron dendrites, provide an unusually strong excitatory drive at the soma of CA2 pyramidal neurons, with EPSPs that are 5-6 times larger than those in CA1 pyramidal neurons. We here elucidate synaptic and dendritic mechanisms that account quantitatively for the marked difference in EPSP size. Our findings further demonstrate the general importance of fine-tuning the integrative properties of neuronal dendrites to their density of synaptic innervation.

Keywords: CA2 pyramidal neuron; dendrites; glutamate uncaging; passive properties; two-photon imaging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • CA2 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology