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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jun 16;106(24):9878-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0900330106. Epub 2009 Jun 1.

Proximity of excitatory and inhibitory axon terminals adjacent to pyramidal cell bodies provides a putative basis for nonsynaptic interactions.

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Department of Anatomy I, School of Medicine, Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


Although pyramidal cells are the main excitatory neurons in the cerebral cortex, it has recently been reported that they can evoke inhibitory postsynaptic currents in neighboring pyramidal neurons. These inhibitory effects were proposed to be mediated by putative axo-axonic excitatory synapses between the axon terminals of pyramidal cells and perisomatic inhibitory axon terminals [Ren M, Yoshimura Y, Takada N, Horibe S, Komatsu Y (2007) Science 316:758-761]. However, the existence of this type of axo-axonic synapse was not found using serial section electron microscopy. Instead, we observed that inhibitory axon terminals synapsing on pyramidal cell bodies were frequently apposed by terminals that established excitatory synapses with neighbouring dendrites. We propose that a spillover of glutamate from these excitatory synapses can activate the adjacent inhibitory axo-somatic terminals.

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