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Front Cell Neurosci. 2010 May 18;4:13. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2010.00013. eCollection 2010.

Back-Propagation of Physiological Action Potential Output in Dendrites of Slender-Tufted L5A Pyramidal Neurons.

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Department of Cell Physiology, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research Heidelberg, Germany.


Pyramidal neurons of layer 5A are a major neocortical output type and clearly distinguished from layer 5B pyramidal neurons with respect to morphology, in vivo firing patterns, and connectivity; yet knowledge of their dendritic properties is scant. We used a combination of whole-cell recordings and Ca(2+) imaging techniques in vitro to explore the specific dendritic signaling role of physiological action potential patterns recorded in vivo in layer 5A pyramidal neurons of the whisker-related 'barrel cortex'. Our data provide evidence that the temporal structure of physiological action potential patterns is crucial for an effective invasion of the main apical dendrites up to the major branch point. Both the critical frequency enabling action potential trains to invade efficiently and the dendritic calcium profile changed during postnatal development. In contrast to the main apical dendrite, the more passive properties of the short basal and apical tuft dendrites prevented an efficient back-propagation. Various Ca(2+) channel types contributed to the enhanced calcium signals during high-frequency firing activity, whereas A-type K(+) and BK(Ca) channels strongly suppressed it. Our data support models in which the interaction of synaptic input with action potential output is a function of the timing, rate and pattern of action potentials, and dendritic location.


critical frequency; dendritic excitability; development; layer 5A; temporal code; voltage-gated ion channels

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