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Brain Res. 2001 Feb 2;890(2):261-71.

Ultrastructural features and synaptic connections of hilar ectopic granule cells in the rat dentate gyrus are different from those of granule cells in the granule cell layer.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of California at Irvine, College of Medicine, Irvine, CA 92697-1275, USA.


Several investigators have shown the existence of dentate granule cells in ectopic locations within the hilus and molecular layer using both Golgi and retrograde tracing studies but the ultrastructural features and synaptic connections of ectopic granule cells were not previously examined. In the present study, the biocytin retrograde tracing technique was used to label ectopic granule cells following injections into stratum lucidum of CA3b of hippocampal slices obtained from epileptic rats. Electron microscopy was used to study hilar ectopic granule cells that were located 20-40 microm from the granule cell layer (GCL). They had ultrastructural features similar to those of granule cells in the GCL but showed differences, including nuclei that often displayed infoldings and thicker apical dendrites. At their origin, these dendrites were 6 microm in diameter and they tapered down to 2 microm at the border with the GCL. Both biocytin-labeled and unlabeled axon terminals formed exclusively asymmetric synapses with the somata and proximal dendrites of hilar ectopic granule cells. The mean number of axosomatic synapses for these cells was three times that for granule cells in the GCL. Together, these data indicate that hilar ectopic granule cells are postsynaptic to mossy fibers and have less inhibitory input on their somata and proximal dendrites than granule cells in the GCL. This finding is consistent with recent physiological results showing that hilar ectopic granule cells from epileptic rats are more hyperexcitable than granule cells in the GCL.

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