Synaptic connectivity of a local circuit neurone in lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat

Nature. 1985 Oct 17-23;317(6038):618-21. doi: 10.1038/317618a0.


Although receptive fields of relay cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat nearly match those of their retinal afferents, only 10-20% of the synapses on these cells derive from the retina and are excitatory. Many more (30-40%) are inhibitory and largely control the gating of retinogeniculate transmission. These inhibitory synapses derive chiefly from two cell types: intrinsic local circuit neurones and cells in the adjacent perigeniculate nucleus. It has been difficult to study the functional organization of these inhibitory pathways; most efforts have relied on indirect approaches. Here we describe the use of direct techniques to study a local circuit neurone by iontophoresing horseradish peroxidase (HRP) into it, which completely labels the soma and processes of cells for subsequent light- and electron microscopic analysis. Although the response properties of the labelled cell are virtually indistinguishable from those of many relay cells, its morphology is typical of 'class 3' neurones (see Fig. 1 legend), which are widely believed to be interneurones (but see ref. 12). Here, we refer to the cell as a 'local circuit neurone', which allows for the possibility of a projection axon, rather than as an 'interneurone', a term that commonly excludes a projection axon. We find that the labelled cell has a myelinated axon, but that the axon loses its myelin within 50 microns of the soma and has not yet been traced further. The dendrites of the labelled cell possess presynaptic terminals that act as intrinsic sources of inhibition on geniculate relay cells. We also characterize other morphological aspects of this inhibitory circuitry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Retina / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / ultrastructure*
  • Visual Pathways / ultrastructure