Coincidence Detection within the Excitable Rat Olfactory Bulb Granule Cell Spines

J Neurosci. 2019 Jan 23;39(4):584-595. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1798-18.2018.


In the mammalian olfactory bulb, the inhibitory axonless granule cells (GCs) feature reciprocal synapses that interconnect them with the principal neurons of the bulb, mitral, and tufted cells. These synapses are located within large excitable spines that can generate local action potentials (APs) upon synaptic input ("spine spike"). Moreover, GCs can fire global APs that propagate throughout the dendrite. Strikingly, local postsynaptic Ca2+ entry summates mostly linearly with Ca2+ entry due to coincident global APs generated by glomerular stimulation, although some underlying conductances should be inactivated. We investigated this phenomenon by constructing a compartmental GC model to simulate the pairing of local and global signals as a function of their temporal separation Δt. These simulations yield strongly sublinear summation of spine Ca2+ entry for the case of perfect coincidence Δt = 0 ms. Summation efficiency (SE) sharply rises for both positive and negative Δt. The SE reduction for coincident signals depends on the presence of voltage-gated Na+ channels in the spine head, while NMDARs are not essential. We experimentally validated the simulated SE in slices of juvenile rat brain (both sexes) by pairing two-photon uncaging of glutamate at spines and APs evoked by somatic current injection at various intervals Δt while imaging spine Ca2+ signals. Finally, the latencies of synaptically evoked global APs and EPSPs were found to correspond to Δt ≈ 10 ms, explaining the observed approximately linear summation of synaptic local and global signals. Our results provide additional evidence for the existence of the GC spine spike.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Here we investigate the interaction of local synaptic inputs and global activation of a neuron by a backpropagating action potential within a dendritic spine with respect to local Ca2+ signaling. Our system of interest, the reciprocal spine of the olfactory bulb granule cell, is known to feature a special processing mode, namely, a synaptically triggered action potential that is restricted to the spine head. Therefore, coincidence detection of local and global signals follows different rules than in more conventional synapses. We unravel these rules using both simulations and experiments and find that signals coincident within ≈±7 ms around 0 ms result in sublinear summation of Ca2+ entry because of synaptic activation of voltage-gated Na+ channels within the spine.

Keywords: NEURON model; coincidence detection; granule cell; olfactory bulb; spine spike; two-photon uncaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Sodium Channels / physiology


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Sodium Channels