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J Neurophysiol. 1988 Dec;60(6):1896-907.

Voltage-dependent currents prolong single-axon postsynaptic potentials in layer III pyramidal neurons in rat neocortical slices.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University College, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


1. Using isolated slices of rat cingulate and sensorimotor cortex, intracellular recordings were obtained from pyramidal neurons in layer III. Simultaneous extracellular recordings were obtained from neurons in ventral layer III and layer IV. Spike-triggered averaging was employed to investigate synaptic connections from neurons in layers III/IV to pyramidal cells in layer III. 2. Of 701 simultaneously recorded pairs of neurons, comprising 699 extracellularly and 128 intracellularly recorded neurons, synaptic connections were demonstrated in 30 pairs. Of these, 29 were excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) and 1, an inhibitory postsynaptic potential (IPSP). Single-axon EPSPs with a wide variety of amplitudes were recorded: the range recorded at membrane potentials between -68 and -72 mV was 0.079-2.3 mV. Comparing recordings obtained from different cells, EPSP amplitude was found to be independent of both the membrane resistance of the postsynaptic neuron and the EPSP time course; i.e., the largest EPSPs were not necessarily those recorded from neurons with the highest input resistance, nor those with the briefest time course. 3. Shape indices: width at half amplitude and rise-time, indicative of both proximal and distal synaptic locations were obtained. Normalized rise-times were between 0.1 and 2 times the membrane time constant and half-widths between 0.8 and 20 times. 4. The majority of postsynaptic neurons displayed nonlinear voltage relations typical of pyramidal neurons, and the contribution to EPSP shape of voltage-dependent currents was investigated. EPSP amplitude and duration were found to be dependent on membrane potential. The majority of single-axon EPSPs (26 of 29), increased in amplitude and duration with membrane depolarization over the range -95 - -50 mV, despite the significant decrease in driving force for the EPSP that would be expected to accompany such large depolarizations. This increase coincided with an increase in the amplitude of voltage responses to small injected current pulses. 5. It is concluded that the amplitude and time course of single-axon EPSPs recorded in cortical pyramidal somata are affected not only by the amplitude of the postsynaptic current and the location(s) of the synapse(s) relative to the soma, but also by voltage-dependent currents. The possibility that the increase in amplitude and duration of these EPSPs with membrane depolarization is due to N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor involvement is discussed.

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