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J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 24;30(47):15951-61. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3663-10.2010.

Glutamatergic neurons of the mouse medial septum and diagonal band of Broca synaptically drive hippocampal pyramidal cells: relevance for hippocampal theta rhythm.

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Douglas Mental Health University Institute, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H4H 1R3, Canada.


Neurons of the medial septum and diagonal band of Broca (MS-DBB) provide an important input to the hippocampus and are critically involved in learning and memory. Although cholinergic and GABAergic MS-DBB neurons are known to modulate hippocampal activity, the role of recently described glutamatergic MS-DBB neurons is unknown. Here, we examined the electrophysiological properties of glutamatergic MS-DBB neurons and tested whether they provide a functional synaptic input to the hippocampus. To visualize the glutamatergic neurons, we used MS-DBB slices from transgenic mice in which the green fluorescent protein is expressed specifically by vesicular glutamate transporter 2-positive neurons and characterized their properties using whole-cell patch-clamp technique. For assessing the function of the glutamatergic projection, we used an in vitro septohippocampal preparation, electrically stimulated the fornix or chemically activated the MS-DBB using NMDA microinfusions and recorded postsynaptic responses in CA3 pyramidal cells. We found that glutamatergic MS-DBB neurons as a population display a highly heterogeneous set of firing patterns including fast-, cluster-, burst-, and slow-firing. Remarkably, a significant proportion exhibited fast-firing properties, prominent I(h), and rhythmic spontaneous firing at theta frequencies similar to those found in GABAergic MS-DBB neurons. Activation of the MS-DBB led to fast, AMPA receptor-mediated glutamatergic responses in CA3 pyramidal cells. These results describe for the first time the electrophysiological signatures of glutamatergic MS-DBB neurons, their rhythmic firing properties, and their capacity to drive hippocampal principal neurons. Our findings suggest that the glutamatergic septohippocampal pathway may play an important role in hippocampal theta oscillations and relevant cognitive functions.

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