Electrophysiological diversity of pyramidal-shaped neurons at the granule cell layer/hilus border of the rat dentate gyrus recorded in vitro


  • Helen E. Scharfman

    Corresponding author
    1. Neurology Research Center, Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, and Departments of Pharmacology and Neurology, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York
    • Neurology Research Center, Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, NY 10993-1195
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In the rat dentate gyrus, pyramidal-shaped cells located on the border of the granule cell layer and the hilus are one of the most common types of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-immunoreactive neurons. This study describes their electrophysiological characteristics. Membrane properties, patterns of discharge, and synaptic responses were recorded intracellularly from these cells in hippocampal slices. Each cell was identified as pyramidal-shaped by injecting the marker Neurobiotin intracellularly (n =17).

In several respects the membrane properties of the sampled cells were similar to “fast-spiking” cells (putative inhibitory interneurons) that have been described in other areas of the hippocampus. For example, input resistance was high (mean 91.3 megohms), the membrane time constant was short (mean 7.7 ms), and there was a large afterhyperpolarization following a single action potential (mean 10.5 mV at resting potential). However, the action potentials of most pyramidal-shaped cells were not as brief (mean 1.2 ms total duration) as those of most previously described fast-spiking cells. Many pyramidal-shaped neurons had strong spike frequency adaptation relative to other fast-spiking cells. Although these latter two characteristics were apparent in the majority of the sampled cells, there were exceptional pyramidal-shaped neurons with fast action potentials and weak adaptation, demonstrating the electrophysiological variability of pyramidal-shaped cells.

Responses to outer molecular layer stimulation were composed primarily of excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) rather than inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs), and were usually small (EPSPs evoked at threshold were often less than 2 mV), and brief (less than 30 ms). There was variability, because in a few cells EPSPs evoked at threshold were much larger. However, regardless of EPSP amplitude, suprathreshold stimulation (up to 4 times the threshold stimulus strength) rarely evoked more than one action potential in any cell. The results suggest that stimulation of perforant path axons produces limited excitatory synaptic responses in pyramidal-shaped neurons. This may be one of the reasons why they are relatively resistant to prolonged perforant path stimulation.

The pyramidal-shaped neurons located at the base of the granule cell layer have been associated historically with a basket plexus around granule cell somata, and have been called pyramidal “basket” cells. However, basket-like endings were rare and axon collaterals outside the granule cell layer were common. Many axon collaterals were as far from the granule cell layer as the outer molecular layer and the central hilus, and antidromic action potentials could be recorded in some cells in response to weak stimulation of these areas. Taken together with the electrophysiological variability, the results indicate that these cells are physiologically heterogeneous. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.