The physiological variability of channel density in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells and interneurons explored using a unified data-driven modeling workflow

PLoS Comput Biol. 2018 Sep 17;14(9):e1006423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006423. eCollection 2018 Sep.


Every neuron is part of a network, exerting its function by transforming multiple spatiotemporal synaptic input patterns into a single spiking output. This function is specified by the particular shape and passive electrical properties of the neuronal membrane, and the composition and spatial distribution of ion channels across its processes. For a variety of physiological or pathological reasons, the intrinsic input/output function may change during a neuron's lifetime. This process results in high variability in the peak specific conductance of ion channels in individual neurons. The mechanisms responsible for this variability are not well understood, although there are clear indications from experiments and modeling that degeneracy and correlation among multiple channels may be involved. Here, we studied this issue in biophysical models of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and interneurons. Using a unified data-driven simulation workflow and starting from a set of experimental recordings and morphological reconstructions obtained from rats, we built and analyzed several ensembles of morphologically and biophysically accurate single cell models with intrinsic electrophysiological properties consistent with experimental findings. The results suggest that the set of conductances expressed in any given hippocampal neuron may be considered as belonging to two groups: one subset is responsible for the major characteristics of the firing behavior in each population and the other is responsible for a robust degeneracy. Analysis of the model neurons suggests several experimentally testable predictions related to the combination and relative proportion of the different conductances that should be expressed on the membrane of different types of neurons for them to fulfill their role in the hippocampus circuitry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology

Grants and funding

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 720270 and 785907, Human Brain Project SGA1 and SGA2. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.