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PLoS Biol. 2014 Aug 19;12(8):e1001932. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001932. eCollection 2014 Aug.

Pyramidal cells make specific connections onto smooth (GABAergic) neurons in mouse visual cortex.

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Institute for Neuroinformatics, University of Zürich and ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Brain Research Institute, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; Institute de Neurosciences de la Timone, Marseille, France.
Brain Research Institute, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


One of the hallmarks of neocortical circuits is the predominance of recurrent excitation between pyramidal neurons, which is balanced by recurrent inhibition from smooth GABAergic neurons. It has been previously described that in layer 2/3 of primary visual cortex (V1) of cat and monkey, pyramidal cells filled with horseradish peroxidase connect approximately in proportion to the spiny (excitatory, 95% and 81%, respectively) and smooth (GABAergic, 5% and 19%, respectively) dendrites found in the neuropil. By contrast, a recent ultrastructural study of V1 in a single mouse found that smooth neurons formed 51% of the targets of the superficial layer pyramidal cells. This suggests that either the neuropil of this particular mouse V1 had a dramatically different composition to that of V1 in cat and monkey, or that smooth neurons were specifically targeted by the pyramidal cells in that mouse. We tested these hypotheses by examining similar cells filled with biocytin in a sample of five mice. We found that the average composition of the neuropil in V1 of these mice was similar to that described for cat and monkey V1, but that the superficial layer pyramidal cells do form proportionately more synapses with smooth dendrites than the equivalent neurons in cat or monkey. These distributions may underlie the distinct differences in functional architecture of V1 between rodent and higher mammals.

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