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Morphology, Electrophysiology and Pathophysiology of Supragranular Neurons in Rat Primary Somatosensory Cortex



Intracellularly biocytin-labelled neurons in layers 11/111 of adult rat primary somatosensory cortex were analysed for their morphological and electrophysiological properties and studied for their response pattern to transient hypoxia under in vitro conditions. The largest dendritic region is formed by the basal dendrites, which constitute an average area of 0.06 mm2 and which can receive synaptic inputs over horizontal distances of more than 300 μm. The dendritic territories formed by the oblique dendrites situated on the apical trunk and by the apical tuft are much smaller. The spine density is highest on the apical trunk, suggesting that large numbers of excitatory synapses are present in this region of the cell. All neurons revealed intrinsic membrane properties of typical regular spiking cells and received an excitatory and a strong biphasic inhibitory input. Whereas a significant correlation could be detected between the cell's input resistance and soma area, no correlation existed between the cell's total dendritic length and input resistance or membrane time constant/input resistance. Neurons responded to transient hypoxia either with an anoxic hyperpolarization with an apparent reversal potential of -82.4 mV, or with a gradual anoxic depolarization which reversed at -56 mV. Oxygen deprivation caused a significant reduction in the extent of axonal collaterals, whereas dendritic proportions and spine density were unaffected. The present study indicates that the dendritic tree is well preserved under in vitro conditions, whereas axonal connections are diminished by oxygen deprivation. Our results further suggest that certain structural properties correlate with the cellular physiology, but that the cell's morphology does not determine its responsiveness to hypoxia.