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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Sep;108(5):1521-8. doi: 10.1152/jn.00829.2011. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

Altered dendritic complexity affects firing properties of cortical layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons in mice lacking the 5-HT3A receptor.

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Center for Neuroscience, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


We have previously shown that the serotonergic input on Cajal-Retzius cells, mediated by 5-HT(3) receptors, plays an important role in the early postnatal maturation of the apical dendritic trees of layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons. We reported that knockout mice lacking the 5-HT(3A) receptor showed exuberant apical dendrites of these cortical pyramidal neurons. Because model studies have shown the role of dendritic morphology on neuronal firing pattern, we used the 5-HT(3A) knockout mouse to explore the impact of dendritic hypercomplexity on the electrophysiological properties of this specific class of neurons. Our experimental results show that hypercomplexity of the apical dendritic tuft of layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons affects neuronal excitability by reducing the amount of spike frequency adaptation. This difference in firing pattern, related to a higher dendritic complexity, was accompanied by an altered development of the afterhyperpolarization slope with successive action potentials. Our abstract and realistic neuronal models, which allowed manipulation of the dendritic complexity, showed similar effects on neuronal excitability and confirmed the impact of apical dendritic complexity. Alterations of dendritic complexity, as observed in several pathological conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases or neurodevelopmental disorders, may thus not only affect the input to layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons but also shape their firing pattern and consequently alter the information processing in the cortex.

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