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Pyramidal cell axons show a local specialization for GABA and 5-HT inputs in monkey and human cerebral cortex



Various mechanisms are thought to control excitation of pyramidal cells of the cerebral cortex. With immunocytochemical methods, we found that the proximal portions of numerous pyramidal cell axons (Pyr-axons) in the human and monkey neocortex are immunoreactive for the serotonin (5-HT) receptor 5-HT-1A. With double-labeling experiments and confocal laser microscopy, we found that most (93.4%) of the 5-HT1A–immunoreactive Pyr-axons present in layers II and III were innervated by parvalbumin-immunoreactive chandelier cell axon terminals. In addition, Pyr-axons were compartmentalized: 5-HT-1A receptors were found proximal to inputs from chandelier cells. Although we found close appositions between GABAergic chandelier cell axon terminals and Pyr-axons, suggesting synaptic connections, we did not observe 5-HT–immunoreactive fibers in close proximity to the Pyr-axons. These results suggested that Pyr-axons are under the influence of 5-HT in a paracrine manner (via 5-HT-1A receptors) and, more distally, are under the influence of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in a synaptic manner (through the axons of chandelier cells). The local axonal specialization might represent a powerful inhibitory mechanism by which the responses of large populations of pyramidal cells can be globally controlled by subcortical serotonin afferents, in addition to local inputs from GABAergic interneurons. J. Comp. Neurol. 433:148–155, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.