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J Neurophysiol. 1997 Dec;78(6):3338-50.

Electrophysiological properties of rat pontine nuclei neurons In vitro II. Postsynaptic potentials.

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Sektion für Visuelle Sensomotorik, Neurologische Universitätsklinik Tübingen, 72076 Tubingen, Germany.


We investigated the postsynaptic responses of neurons of the rat pontine nuclei (PN) by performing intracellular recordings in parasagittal slices of the pontine brain stem. Postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) were evoked by brief (0.1 ms) negative current pulses (10-250 microA) applied to either the cerebral peduncle or the pontine tegmentum. First, excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) could be evoked readily from peduncular stimulation sites. These EPSPs exhibited short latencies, a nonlinear increment in response to increased stimulation currents, and an unconventional dependency on the somatic membrane potential. Pharmacological blockade of the synaptic transmission using 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2, 3-dione and ,-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid, selective antagonists of the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazilepropionate- (AMPA) and the N-methyl--aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptors, showed that these EPSPs were mediated exclusively by excitatory amino acids via both AMPA and NMDA receptors. Moreover, the pharmacological experiments indicated the existence of voltage-sensitive but NMDA receptor-independent amplification of EPSPs. Second, stimulations at peduncular and tegmental sites also elicited inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) in a substantial proportion of pontine neurons. The short latencies of all IPSPs argued against the participation of inhibitory interneurons. Their sensitivity to bicuculline and reversal potentials around -70 mV suggested that they were mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABAA) receptors. In addition to single PSPs, sequences consisting of two to four distinct EPSPs could be recorded after stimulation of the cerebral peduncle. Most remarkably, the onset latencies of the following EPSPs were multiples of the first one indicating the involvement of intercalated synapses. Finally, we used the classic paired-pulse paradigm to study whether the temporal structure of inputs influences the synaptic transmission onto pontine neurons. Pairs of electrical stimuli applied to the cerebral peduncle resulted in a marked enhancement of the amplitude of the second EPSP for interstimulus intervals of 10-100 ms. Delays >200 ms left the EPSP amplitude unaltered. These data provide evidence for a complex synaptic integration and an intrinsic connectivity within the PN too elaborate to support the previous notion that the PN are simply a relay station.

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