• calcium-binding proteins;
  • development;
  • gene induction;
  • organotypic cultures


Parvalbumin (PV) belongs to the large family of EF-hand calcium-binding proteins and is an excellent marker for a subpopulation of GABAergic neocortical interneurons. During cortical development, PV first appears on postnatal day (P)8, in the infragranular layers; after P14, it also becomes apparent within the supragranular layers. However, nothing is known about the factors controlling its expression, which could involve functional activity, neuronal connectivity and/or neurotrophic factors. It being difficult to manipulate these parameters in vivo, their role may be more readily assessed in organotypic cultures, which are deprived of their subcortical afferents and efferents, and hence of subcortically derived neurotrophic factors and extrinsic functional activity. We prepared slices of the rat brain on P3, P5, P7 and P9, maintained them in culture for 2–5 weeks, and compared the temporal and spatial distribution pattern of PV-immunoreactivity within these slices with the in vivo situation. We found, first, that during late postnatal in vivo development and ageing, the number of PV-immunoreactive neurons in the parietal cortex decreases significantly, and second, that the expression of PV-immunoreactivity in the parietal cortex was markedly influenced by the phase of postnatal development at which slice cultures were explanted. In those removed on P7 and P9, the number of PV-immunoreactive cells, as well as the temporal and spatial distribution pattern of PV-immunoreactivity corresponded to the in vivo situation, but in explants obtained on P3 or P5, PV-immunoreactivity remained confined to layer V of the cortex, reminiscent of the expression profile manifested at the end of the second postnatal week in vivo. Also, the number of PV-immunoreactive cells in these cultures was significantly lower than in explants at the later stages. Our results indicate that the onset of PV-expression in the parietal cortex depends upon extrinsic cortical factors subsisting prior to P7. Once the production of this protein has been initiated, such influences are no longer required.