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J Physiol. 1994 Aug 1;478 Pt 3:423-35.

Relationships between morphology and physiology of pyramid-pyramid single axon connections in rat neocortex in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, Hampstead, London.


1. Double intracellular recordings were made from 1163 pairs of pyramidal neurones in layer V-VI of the rat somatomotor cortex in vitro using sharp electrodes filled with biocytin. Monosynaptically connected pairs of cells were identified when an action potential in one could elicit a constant latency excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) in the other and the cells were filled with biocytin. Labelled cells were subsequently identified histologically with avidin-horseradish peroxidase. 2. Thirty-four pairs of cells were found to be monosynaptically connected. Fifteen of these pairs were sufficiently stable for electrophysiological recordings and three of these were recovered sufficiently to permit full morphological reconstruction. 3. The EPSP recorded between the first pair of pyramids varied in amplitude between 0 and 3 mV (mean 1.33 +/- 1.06 mV) and fluctuated considerably (coefficient of variation, 0.796). This was largely due to a high incidence of apparent failures of transmission. On reconstruction two boutons from the presynaptic pyramid axon were in close apposition to the proximal portions of basal dendrites of the postsynaptic cell. 4. In the second pair of pyramids the EPSP had a mean amplitude of 1.06 mV, and displayed a 10-90% rise time of 2.8 ms and a width at half-amplitude of 23 ms. This EPSP did not alter significantly with changes in membrane potential at the soma. The presynaptic axon closely apposed the distal apical dendrite of the postsynaptic cell in eight places. 5. In the third pair of pyramids, the EPSPs, recorded at a relatively depolarized membrane potential, were long lasting and could elicit slow dendritic spikes with long and variable latencies. These slow spikes suggested that the postsynaptic recording site was dendritic and on reconstruction a possible location was identified on the apical dendrite. A total of five presynaptic boutons closely apposed three separate, proximal branches of the postsynaptic apical dendrite. 6. These results provide the first illustration of a morphological basis for variations in functional properties of pyramid-pyramid connections in the neocortex.

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