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J Neurophysiol. 1990 Nov;64(5):1429-41.

Propagating dendritic action potential mediates synaptic transmission in CA1 pyramidal cells in situ.

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Division of Physiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


1. The events leading to the Schaffer collateral-induced discharge of CA1 pyramidal neurons were investigated in the hippocampus of anesthetized rats by current source-density (CSD) analysis. 2. The earliest evoked currents detected shortly after a stimulus were a sink in the zone where synapses are known to be located (300-350 microns ventral to the somatic layer) flanked by two smaller sources in the distal portion of the apical dendrites and in the somatic layer. This synaptic sink (SyS) extended over 75-100 microns; it lasted for 15-20 ms, and it reached its maximum amplitude some milliseconds after the population spike (PS) and remained in the same location. Stimuli submaximal and supramaximal for evoking a PS yielded the same pattern of current distribution for the SyS. Presynaptic fiber volleys were not detected in these recordings. 3. During the rising phase of the SyS a second sink appeared in a more proximal portion of the apical dendrites. This late dendritic sink (LS) extended over 50-75 microns and was centered 100-150 microns ventral to the somatic layer. This proximal dendritic sink was of amplitude comparable with the SyS; it outlasted the latter and was not necessarily followed by a somatic PS. The LS was extinguished with the appearance of a PS, whereas the SyS persisted regardless of the presence of a PS. 4. After maximal stimuli the LS grew until it exceeded a threshold amplitude, and then, it started to move somatopetally as a continuously propagating sink (PrS). The average speed of propagation was approximately 0.2 m/s. In 0.5-0.7 ms the PrS reached the cell-body layer displacing the passive source that moved into the basal dendrites. The PrS then became the intensive sink corresponding to the main (negative) phase of the somatic PS. This was followed by the development of an active source in the soma layer, probably corresponding to the repolarization phase of the PS. 5. From these observations it appears that the LS and PrS are active dendritic responses. It may be inferred that, shortly after the synaptic currents enter the dendrites, depolarization of adjacent membranes causes the opening of low-threshold, voltage-dependent, slowly inactivating channels that generate the LS. If the depolarization resulting from the LS current is intense enough, another population of channels open that are also voltage-dependent but of higher threshold and faster inactivation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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