Inhibitory synaptogenesis in mouse somatosensory cortex

Cereb Cortex. 1997 Oct-Nov;7(7):619-34. doi: 10.1093/cercor/7.7.619.


It is widely believed that inhibitory synapses are not present or present in only small numbers in the rodent cerebral cortex during the early postnatal period when the cortex is being innervated by thalamocortical fibers. Quantitative electron microscopy was carried out on the posteromedial barrel subfield of mouse somatosensory cortex from postnatal day 4 (P4) when thalamocortical innervation of the barrels is becoming established, through to sexual maturity (>P32), and in adulthood. Both asymmetrical (putatively excitatory) and symmetrical (putatively inhibitory) synapses were present in all layers from P4. The symmetrical synapses were immunoreactive for GABA at all ages. There was a progressive increase in both asymmetrical and symmetrical synapses up to P32, density in all layers increasing 16-fold, with the production of asymmetrical synapses leading and greatly outstripping that of symmetrical. From P32 to P120, the oldest age studied, synaptic numbers declined by 18% to 13 times the P4 level, but this affected predominantly layers II/III, IV and V, and mainly involved asymmetrical synapses. The relative percentage of asymmetrical to symmetrical synapses from P4 to P8 was 57%/43% but at P32 it was 89.5%/10.5% and in adulthood 85.4%/14.6%. These data indicate that inhibitory synaptogenesis in the rodent cortex begins earlier than previously thought, a basis for inhibition being present from the earliest period. Pruning of all synapses occurs well after thalamocortical innervation is established and inhibitory synapses are less affected by the pruning process.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / analysis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / growth & development*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase