Synaptic Input of Horizontal Interneurons in Stratum Oriens of the Hippocampal CA1 Subfield: Structural Basis of Feed-back Activation


Correspondence to: T. F. Freund, as above


The synaptic input of interneurons with horizontal dendrites in stratum oriens of the CA1 region was investigated, with particular attention to the portion of synapses originating from local pyramidal cells. Most of these GABAergic interneurons are known to contain somatostatin, and terminate on pyramidal dendrites in conjunction with entorhinal afferents in stratum lacunosum-moleculare. A smaller number of horizontal cells in this layer are immunoreactive for calbindin, and project to the medial septum. Selective ischaemic degeneration was used to label local axon collaterals of CA1 pyramidal cells, and immunostaining for mGluR1 or calbindin to visualise somatostatin- and calbindin-containing horizontal interneurons, respectively, at the stratum oriens-alveus border. The number of degenerating and intact synaptic boutons was counted on mGluR1- as well as on calbindin-positive dendrites and somata, whereas in another group of animals the proportion of GABA-immunoreactive synapses was estimated on calbindin-positive dendrites. On average, >60% of the total presynaptic elements of both cell types were degenerating, i.e. originated from CA1 pyramidal cells, whereas GABA-positive boutons, which are known to survive ischaemia, are likely to account for a large proportion of non-degenerating boutons. Thus the vast majority of presumed excitatory synapses on somatostatin- and calbindin-containing horizontal neurons derives from local collaterals of CA1 pyramidal cells. The remaining GABA-negative synapses surviving ischaemia may also originate from CA1 pyramidal cells, e.g. from those in the ventral hippocampus, which are rarely damaged by global forebrain ischaemia. Alternative sources may include subcortical afferents known to innervate interneurons, or ipsi- and contralateral CAS pyramidal cells, which, according to the present results, may account only for a negligible number of synapses on these interneuron types. We conclude that somatostatin-containing neurons at the oriens-alveus border of CA1, which are likely to mediate an inhibitory control of the efficacy and/or plasticity of entorhinal synapses on pyramidal cell dendrites, are driven primarily in a feed-back manner. The source of afferent excitation for calbindin-containing horizontal neurons in this region is very similar, suggesting that the GABAergic hippocamposeptal feed-back is also activated by local pyramidal cell collaterals.