A distinct entorhinal cortex to hippocampal CA1 direct circuit for olfactory associative learning

Nat Neurosci. 2017 Apr;20(4):559-570. doi: 10.1038/nn.4517. Epub 2017 Mar 6.


Lateral and medial parts of entorhinal cortex (EC) convey nonspatial 'what' and spatial 'where' information, respectively, into hippocampal CA1, via both the indirect EC layer 2→ hippocampal dentate gyrus→CA3→CA1 and the direct EC layer 3→CA1 paths. However, it remains elusive how the direct path transfers distinct information and contributes to hippocampal learning functions. Here we report that lateral EC projection neurons selectively form direct excitatory synapses onto a subpopulation of morphologically complex, calbindin-expressing pyramidal cells (PCs) in the dorsal CA1 (dCA1), while medial EC neurons uniformly innervate all dCA1 PCs. Optogenetically inactivating the distinct lateral EC-dCA1 connections or the postsynaptic dCA1 calbindin-expressing PC activity slows olfactory associative learning. Moreover, optetrode recordings reveal that dCA1 calbindin-expressing PCs develop more selective spiking responses to odor cues during learning. Thus, our results identify a direct lateral EC→dCA1 circuit that is required for olfactory associative learning.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Calbindins / metabolism
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology


  • Calbindins