Prefrontal Cortex Drives Distinct Projection Neurons in the Basolateral Amygdala

Cell Rep. 2017 Nov 7;21(6):1426-1433. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.10.046.


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) regulates emotional behavior via top-down control of the basolateral amygdala (BLA). However, the influence of PFC inputs on the different projection pathways within the BLA remains largely unexplored. Here, we combine whole-cell recordings and optogenetics to study these cell-type specific connections in mouse BLA. We characterize PFC inputs onto three distinct populations of BLA neurons that project to the PFC, ventral hippocampus, or nucleus accumbens. We find that PFC-evoked synaptic responses are strongest at amygdala-cortical and amygdala-hippocampal neurons and much weaker at amygdala-striatal neurons. We assess the mechanisms for this targeting and conclude that it reflects fewer connections onto amygdala-striatal neurons. Given the similar intrinsic properties of these cells, this connectivity allows the PFC to preferentially activate amygdala-cortical and amygdala-hippocampal neurons. Together, our findings reveal how PFC inputs to the BLA selectively drive feedback projections to the PFC and feedforward projections to the hippocampus.

Keywords: basolateral amygdala; circuit; prefrontal cortex; projection neuron; synapse.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / metabolism*
  • Channelrhodopsins / genetics
  • Channelrhodopsins / metabolism
  • Cholera Toxin / pharmacology
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Genetic Vectors / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • N-Methylaspartate / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Quinoxalines / pharmacology
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / metabolism


  • Channelrhodopsins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Quinoxalines
  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-7-sulfamoylbenzo(f)quinoxaline
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid
  • Cholera Toxin