Evidence from simultaneous intracellular recordings in rat hippocampal slices that area CA3 pyramidal cells innervate dentate hilar mossy cells

J Neurophysiol. 1994 Nov;72(5):2167-80. doi: 10.1152/jn.1994.72.5.2167.


1. Simultaneous intracellular recordings of area CA3 pyramidal cells and dentate hilar "mossy" cells were made in rat hippocampal slices to test the hypothesis that area CA3 pyramidal cells excite mossy cells monosynaptically. Mossy cells and pyramidal cells were differentiated by location and electrophysiological characteristics. When cells were impaled near the border of area CA3 and the hilus, their identity was confirmed morphologically after injection of the marker Neurobiotin. 2. Evidence for monosynaptic excitation of a mossy cell by a pyramidal cell was obtained in 7 of 481 (1.4%) paired recordings. In these cases, a pyramidal cell action potential was followed immediately by a 0.40 to 6.75 (mean, 2.26) mV depolarization in the simultaneously recorded mossy cell (mossy cell membrane potentials, -60 to -70 mV). Given that pyramidal cells used an excitatory amino acid as a neurotransmitter (Cotman and Nadler 1987; Ottersen and Storm-Mathisen 1987) and recordings were made in the presence of the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline (25 microM), it is likely that the depolarizations were unitary excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs). 3. Unitary EPSPs of mossy cells were prone to apparent "failure." The probability of failure was extremely high (up to 0.72; mean = 0.48) if the effects of all presynaptic action potentials were examined, including action potentials triggered inadvertently during other spontaneous EPSPs of the mossy cell. Probability of failure was relatively low (as low as 0; mean = 0.24) if action potentials that occurred during spontaneous activity of the mossy cell were excluded. These data suggest that unitary EPSPs produced by pyramidal cells are strongly affected by concurrent synaptic inputs to the mossy cell. 4. Unitary EPSPs were not clearly affected by manipulation of the mossy cell's membrane potential. This is consistent with the recent report that area CA3 pyramidal cells innervate distal dendrites of mossy cells (Kunkel et al. 1993). Such a distal location also may contribute to the high incidence of apparent failures. 5. Characteristics of unitary EPSPs generated by pyramidal cells were compared with the properties of the unitary EPSPs produced by granule cells. In two slices, pyramidal cell and granule cell inputs to the same mossy cell were compared. In other slices, inputs to different mossy cells were compared. In all experiments, unitary EPSPs produced by granule cells were larger in amplitude but similar in time course to unitary EPSPs produced by pyramidal cells. Probability of failure was lower and paired-pulse facilitation more common among EPSPs triggered by granule cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / physiology*
  • Culture Techniques
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*