The hippocampal CA3 region is classically viewed as a homogeneous autoassociative network critical for associative memory and pattern completion. However, recent evidence has demonstrated a striking heterogeneity along the transverse, or proximodistal, axis of CA3 in spatial encoding and memory. Here we report the presence of striking proximodistal gradients in intrinsic membrane properties and synaptic connectivity for dorsal CA3. A decreasing gradient of mossy fiber synaptic strength along the proximodistal axis is mirrored by an increasing gradient of direct synaptic excitation from entorhinal cortex. Furthermore, we uncovered a nonuniform pattern of reactivation of fear memory traces, with the most robust reactivation during memory retrieval occurring in mid-CA3 (CA3b), the region showing the strongest net recurrent excitation. Our results suggest that heterogeneity in both intrinsic properties and synaptic connectivity may contribute to the distinct spatial encoding and behavioral role of CA3 subregions along the proximodistal axis.
Keywords: CA2; CA3; Hippocampus; contextual fear conditioning; input resistance; intrinsic excitability; mossy fiber; pattern completion; perforant path; recurrent collateral.
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