Variability in the terminations of GABAergic chandelier cell axons on initial segments of pyramidal cell axons in the monkey sensory-motor cortex

J Comp Neurol. 1985 Jan 15;231(3):364-84. doi: 10.1002/cne.902310307.


Chandelier cell axons were studied in the sensory-motor cortex of adult monkeys. The axonal fields of Golgi-impregnated chandelier cells in layer II in motor cortex are flattened sagittally. The vertical terminal portions of the axons varied both in length and in the numbers converging to form terminations of greater or lesser complexity. Golgi-impregnated plexuses were embedded in plastic and resectioned serially at 2.5-3.0 micrograms. A single axonal field could have as many as 400 terminal rows. All lie 3-13 micrograms beneath pyramidal cell somata. These terminations are not randomly distributed but instead, form clusters. Further resectioning the plastic sections for electron microscopy revealed that all the terminations are on the initial axon segments of pyramidal cells and all form symmetric synaptic contacts. In immunocytochemical material stained for glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), the enzyme involved in the synthesis of GABA, GAD-positive boutons were found to form symmetric synaptic contacts with a variety of postsynaptic elements including the axon hillocks and axon initial segments of pyramidal cells. Serial reconstructions from electron micrographs revealed GAD-positive terminals synapsing with the axon initial segment of pyramidal cells joined by cytoplasmic bridges and forming vertically oriented rows identical to those of chandelier cell terminals identified positively in the resectioned Golgi material. The GAD-positive terminals forming initial segment synapses were never continuous with GAD-positive terminals forming axo hillock synapses. The latter probably arise from basket cell axons. Initial segments of pyramidal cell axons in layers II and III were contacted by more GAD-positive terminals than the initial segments of pyramidal cell axons in layer V. The largest pyramidal cells in layer III received the most synapses. Many larger pyramidal cells, identified as callosally projecting cells by the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP), were shown in serial electron micrographs to possess large numbers of initial segment synapses, comparable to those seen in the immunocytochemical material. Serial reconstructions of pyramidal cell axons from axon hillock to the first myelin internode in resectioned Golgi, immunocytochemical and HRP material showed that the number of synapses varied from 2 to 52 for layers II and III and from 2 to 26 for layer V. The number of synapses on the axon hillocks varied from zero to 12. The variability in these terminations may be an important factor in the shaping of the functional properties of the pyramidal cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Motor Cortex / cytology*
  • Motor Cortex / enzymology
  • Papio
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / enzymology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase