Quantification of thalamocortical synapses with spiny stellate neurons in layer IV of mouse somatosensory cortex

J Comp Neurol. 1986 Nov 15;253(3):303-14. doi: 10.1002/cne.902530303.


The distribution of thalamocortical (TC) and other synapses involving spiny stellate neurons in layer IV of the barrel region of mouse primary somatosensory cortex (SmI) was examined in seven male CD/1 mice. TC axon terminals were labeled by lesion-induced degeneration, which has been shown to label reliably all TC synapses in mouse barrel cortex. Spiny stellate neurons, labeled by Golgi impregnation and gold toning, were identified with the light microscope prior to thin sectioning and electron microscopy. Analysis of eight dendritic segments from seven spiny stellate neurons showed that most of their synapses are with their dendritic spines, rather than with their shafts. Axospinous synapses are primarily of the asymmetrical type, whereas axodendritic synapses are mainly of the symmetrical type. Dendrites of spiny stellate neurons consistently form thalamocortical synapses, most of which involve spine heads rather than spine stalks or dendritic shafts. From 10.4% to 22.9% of all asymmetrical synapses with dendrites of spiny stellate neurons involve TC axon terminals. In general, this is a higher range than the ranges that characterize the TC synaptic connectivity of dendrites belonging to other types of neurons, implying that spiny stellate neurons are perhaps more strongly influenced by TC synaptic input than other types of cortical neurons examined previously. Spines involved in TC synapses were distributed irregularly along each of the stellate cell dendrites; about half of the interspinous intervals between these spines were about 5 microns or less. Modulations of the efficacy of TC synaptic input to dendrites of layer IV spiny stellate neurons are discussed in the light of recently reported computer simulated analyses of axospinous synaptic connections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*