|Dr. rer. nat. Martin Möck|
Layer IV (LIV) of the rodent somatosensory cortex contains the somatotopic barrel field. Barrels receive much of the sensory input to the cortex through innervation by thalamocortical axons from the ventral posteromedial nucleus. In the reeler mouse, the absence of cortical layers results in the formation of mispositioned barrel-equivalent clusters of LIV fated neurons. Although functional imaging suggests that sensory input activates the cortex, little is known about the cellular and synaptic properties of identified excitatory neurons of the reeler cortex. We examined the properties of thalamic input to spiny stellate (SpS) neurons in the reeler cortex with in vitro electrophysiology, optogenetics, and subcellular channelrhodopsin-2-assisted circuit mapping (sCRACM). Our results indicate that reeler SpS neurons receive direct but weakened input from the thalamus, with a dispersed spatial distribution along the somatodendritic arbor. These results further document subtle alterations in functional connectivity concomitant of absent layering in the reeler mutant. We suggest that intracortical amplification mechanisms compensate for this weakening in order to allow reliable sensory transmission to the mutant neocortex
Disinhibition of cortical excitatory cell gate information flow through and between corticalcolumns. The major contribution of Martinotti cells (MC) is providing dendritic inhibition toexcitatory neurons and therefore they are a main component of disinhibitory connections.Here we show by means of optogenetics that MC in layers II/III of the mouse primarysomatosensory cortex are inhibited by both parvalbumin (PV)- and vasoactive intestinalpolypeptide (VIP)-expressing cells. Paired recordings revealed stronger synaptic inputonto MC from PV cells than from VIP cells. Moreover, PV cell input showed frequencyindependentdepression, whereas VIP cell input facilitated at high frequencies. Thesedifferences in the properties of the two unitary connections enable disinhibition with distincttemporal features.
Layer Vb pyramidal cells are the major output neurons of the neocortex and transmit theoutcome of cortical columnar signal processing to distant target areas. At the same time they contribute to local tactile information processing by emitting recurrent axonal collateralsinto the columnar microcircuitry. It is, however, not known how exactly the two types of pyramidal cells, called slender-tufted and thick-tufted, contribute to the local circuitry.Here, we investigated in the rat barrel cortex the detailed quantitative morphology of biocytin-filled layer Vb pyramidal cells in vitro, which were characterized for their intrinsicelectrophysiology with special emphasis on their action potential firing pattern. Since westained the same slices for cytochrome oxidase, we could also perform layer- and columnrelated analyses. Our results suggest that in layer Vb the unambiguous action potential firing patterns "regular spiking (RS)" and "repetitive burst spiking (RB)" (previously called intrinsically burst spiking) correlate well with a distinct morphology. RS pyramidal cells are somatodendritically of the slender-tufted type and possess numerous local intralaminarand intracolumnar axonal collaterals, mostly reaching layer I. By contrast, their transcolumnar projections are less well developed. The RB pyramidal cells are somatodendritically of the thick-tufted type and show only relatively sparse local axonal collaterals, whichare preferentially emitted as long horizontal or oblique infragranular collaterals. However,contrary to many previous slice studies, a substantial number of these neurons alsoshowed axonal collaterals reaching layer I. Thus, electrophysiologically defined pyramidalcells of layer Vb show an input and output pattern which suggests RS cells to be more"locally segregating" signal processors whereas RB cells seem to act more on a "global integrative" scale.
Neocortical GABAergic interneurons have a profound impact on cortical circuitry and its information processing capacity. Distinct subgroups of inhibitory interneurons can be distinguished by molecular markers, such as parvalbumin, somatostatin, and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP). Among these, VIP-expressing interneurons sparked a substantial interest since these neurons seem to operate disinhibitory circuit motifs found in all major neocortical areas. Several of these recent studies used transgenic Vip-ires-cre mice to specifically target the population of VIP-expressing interneurons. This makes it necessary to elucidate in detail the sensitivity and specificity of Cre expression for VIP neurons in these animals. Thus, we quantitatively compared endogenous tdTomato with Vip fluorescence in situ hybridization and αVIP immunohistochemistry in the barrel cortex of VIPcre/tdTomato mice in a layer-specific manner. We show that VIPcre/tdTomato mice are highly sensitive and specific for the entire population of VIP-expressing neurons. In the barrel cortex, approximately 13% of all GABAergic neurons are VIP expressing. Most VIP neurons are found in layer II/III (∼60%), whereas approximately 40% are found in the other layers of the barrel cortex. Layer II/III VIP neurons are significantly different from VIP neurons in layers IV-VI in several morphological and membrane properties, which suggest layer-dependent differences in functionality.
In rodents, layer IV of the primary somatosensory cortex contains the barrel field, where individual, large facial whiskers are represented as a dense cluster of cells. In the reeler mouse, a model of disturbed cortical development characterized by a loss of cortical lamination, the barrel field exists in a distorted manner. Little is known about the consequences of such a highly disturbed lamination on cortical function in this model. We used in vivo intrinsic signal optical imaging together with piezo-controlled whisker stimulation to explore sensory map organization and stimulus representation in the barrel field. We found that the loss of cortical layers in reeler mice had surprisingly little incidence on these properties. The overall topological order of whisker representations is highly preserved and the functional activation of individual whisker representations is similar in size and strength to wild-type controls. Because intrinsic imaging measures hemodynamic signals, we furthermore investigated the cortical blood vessel pattern of both genotypes, where we also did not detect major differences. In summary, the loss of the reelin protein results in a widespread disturbance of cortical development which compromises neither the establishment nor the function of an ordered, somatotopic map of the facial whiskers.
The neocortex is regarded as the brain structure responsible for mediating higher brain functions, like conscious perception of sensory signals, learning and memory or programming of goal-directed behavior. Cortical circuits that enable these functions are formed by, first, a larger population of excitatory so-called principal cells (i.e., glutamatergic pyramidal cells; ca. 80–85 %), which issue long-distance projections, in addition to local recurrent collaterals, which form the major part of local cortical excitatory circuits. A second, smaller population of inhibitory also called local or short-axoned interneurons (i.e., GABAergic neurons; ca. 15–20 %), however, contribute heavily to intracortical microcircuits too. They can be subdivided by their location in specific areas, layers, or columns, which possess specific input–output relationships, but also in terms of morphology, electrophysiology, molecular expression profiles, and subcellular target specificity. Here it is proposed that, at present, in the rodent neocortex this population of GABAergic neurons can be reasonably divided into six different types, mainly due to their unique axonal patterns and subcellular target specificity: (i) axo-axonic cells, (ii) basket cells, (iii) Martinotti cells, (iv) bipolar/bitufted cells, (v) neurogliaform cells, and (vi) projection neurons. These different types of GABAergic neurons strongly govern the working of cortical circuits for meaningful behavior by feed-forward and feedback inhibition as well as disinhibition. Thus, they keep excitation in check, perform gain modulation, and open temporal or spatial windows for input control or output generation.
Cerebral cortex and the cerebellum interact closely in order to facilitate spatial orientation and the generation of motor behavior, including eye movements. This interaction is based on a massive projection system that allows the exchange of signals between the two cortices. This cerebro-cerebellar communication system includes several intercalated brain stem nuclei, whose eminent role in the organization of oculomotor behavior has only recently become apparent. This review focuses on the two major nuclei of this group taking a precerebellar position, the pontine nuclei and the nucleus reticularis tegmenti pontis, both intimately involved in the visual guidance of eye movements.
The majority of cerebral signals destined for the cerebellum are handed over by the pontine nuclei (PN), which thoroughly reorganize the neocortical topography. The PN maps neocortical signals of wide-spread origins into adjacent compartments delineated by spatially precise distribution of cortical terminals and postsynaptic dendrites. We asked whether and how signals interact on the level of the PN. Intracellular fillings of rat PN cells in vitro did not reveal any intrinsic axonal branching neither within the range of the cells' dendrites nor farther away. Furthermore, double whole cell patch recordings did not show any signs of interaction between neighboring pontine cells. Using simultaneous unit recording in the PN and cerebellar nuclei (CN) in rats in vivo, we investigated whether PN compartments interact via extrinsic reciprocal connections with the CN. Repetitive electrical stimulation of the cerebral peduncle of < or = 40 Hz readily evoked rapid sequential activation of PN and CN, demonstrating a direct connection between the structures. Stimulation of the PN gray matter led to responses in neurons < or = 600 microm away from the stimulation site at latencies compatible with di- or polysynaptic pathways via the CN. Importantly, these interactions were spatially discontinuous around the stimulation electrode suggesting that reciprocal PN-CN loops in addition reflect the compartmentalized organization of the PN. These findings are in line with the idea that the cerebellum makes use of the compartmentalized map in the PN to orchestrate the composition of its own neocortical input.
We investigated the spatial relationship of axonal and dendritic structures in the rat pontine nuclei (PN), which transfer visual signals from the superior colliculus (SC) and visual cortex (A17) to the cerebellum. Double anterograde tracing (DiI and DiAsp) from different sites in the SC showed that the tectal retinotopy of visual signals is largely lost in the PN. Whereas axon terminals from lateral sites in the SC were confined to a single terminal field close to the cerebral peduncle, medial sites in the SC projected to an additional dorsolateral one. On the other hand, axon terminals originating from the two structures occupy close but, nevertheless, totally nonoverlapping terminal fields within the PN. Furthermore, a quantitative analysis of the dendritic trees of intracellularly filled identified pontine projection neurons showed that the dendritic fields were confined to either the SC or the A17 terminal fields and never extended into both. We also investigated the projections carrying cortical somatosensory inputs to the PN as these signals are known to converge with tectal ones in the cerebellum. However, terminals originating in the whisker representation of the primary somatosensory cortex and in the SC were located in segregated pontine compartments as well. Our results, therefore, point to a possible pontocerebellar mapping rule: Functionally related signals, commonly destined for common cerebellar target zones but residing in different afferent locations, may be kept segregated on the level of the PN and converge only later at specific sites in the granular layer of cerebellar cortex.
Serotonergic modulation of precerebellar nuclei may be crucial for the function of the entire cerebellar system. To study the effects of serotonin (5-HT) on neurons located within the pontine nuclei (PN), the main source of cerebellar mossy fibers, we performed standard intracellular recordings from PN neurons in a slice preparation of the rat pontine brain stem. Application of 5 microM 5-HT significantly altered several intrinsic membrane properties of PN neurons. First, it depolarized the somatic membrane potential by 6.5 +/- 3.5 mV and increased the apparent input resistance from 49.5 +/- 14.6 to 62.7 +/- 21.1 MOmega. Second, 5-HT altered the I-V relationship of PN neurons: it decreased the inward rectification in hyperpolarizing direction, but increased it when depolarizing currents were applied. Third, it decreased the rheobase from 0.32 +/- 0.14 to 0.24 +/- 0.14 nA without affecting the firing threshold. Finally, the amplitude of medium-duration after hyperpolarizations was reduced from -14.9 +/- 2.0 to -12.3 +/- 2.4 mV. Together, these 5-HT effects on the intrinsic membrane properties result in an increase in excitability and instantaneous firing rate. In addition, application of 5 microM 5-HT also modulated postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) evoked by electric stimulations within the cerebral peduncle. The amplitude, maximal slope, and integral of these PSPs were reduced to 46.2 +/- 23.4%, 45.7 +/- 23.7%, and 61.4 +/- 28.4% of the control value, respectively. In contrast, we found no change in the decay and voltage dependence of PSPs. To test modulatory effects on short-term synaptic facilitation, we applied pairs of electrical stimuli at intervals between 10 and 1,000 ms. 5-HT selectively enhanced the paired-pulse facilitation for interstimulus-intervals >20 ms. The alteration of paired-pulse facilitation points to a presynaptic site of action for 5-HT effects on synaptic transmission. Pharmacological experiments suggested that pre- and postsynaptic effects of 5-HT were mediated by two different kinds of 5-HT receptors: changes in intrinsic membrane properties were blocked by the 5-HT(2) receptor antagonist cinanserin while the reduction of PSPs was prevented by the 5-HT(1) receptor antagonist cyanopindolol. In conclusion, 5-HT increases the excitability of PN neurons but decreases the synaptic transmission on them. The selective enhancement of synaptic facilitation may, however, allow high-frequency inputs to effectively drive PN neurons, thus the PN may act as a high-pass filter during periods of 5-HT release.
The Lurcher mutant mouse is characterized by a primary selective loss of Purkinje cells, leading to the near total apoptotic death of these neurons. In contrast to the subsequent massive secondary degeneration of the granule cells and the inferior olivary neurons, only mild degeneration occurs in the deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN). However, it is not known to what extent the different populations of DCN neurons-glutamatergic principal projection neurons, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic inferior olivary projection neurons, and glycinergic neurons-are affected in their neurotransmitter composition. To answer this question we studied the neurotransmitter contents (glutamate, GABA, and glycine) of DCN neurons and the size of synaptic boutons immunohistochemically on serial semithin sections in both Lurcher and wild-type mice. Applying the physical dissector counting method, our results confirmed the mild degeneration (a reduction by 20%) of large glutamatergic neurons and a more pronounced degeneration of GABAergic (by 42%) and glycinergic neurons (by 45%). On the other hand, an analysis of neurons colabeled for both GABA and glycine, revealed that this specific colabeling increased in the Lurcher mutant (by 40%). In addition, both the GABA-immunolabeled (IL) (by 56%) and the glycine-IL (by 45%) synaptic boutons showed an increase in diameter in the mutant. The density of these boutons showed a decrease of 30% each. In summary, the increase in the number of neurons colabeled for GABA and glycine, together with the increase in the size of the inhibitory synaptic boutons, could help in providing the minimum inhibition needed to maintain a residual "cerebellar" functionality in the Lurcher DCN.
Understanding the interaction of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum requires knowledge of the highly complex spatial characteristics of cerebro-cerebellar signal transfer. Cerebro-pontine fibers from one neocortical site terminate in several sharply demarcated patches across large parts of the pontine nuclei (PN), and fibers from different neocortical areas terminate in the same pontine region. To determine whether projections from segregated neocortical sites overlap in the PN, we studied double anterograde tracing of cerebro-pontine terminals from large parts of rat neocortex. In none of these experiments, including double injection into two functionally related areas, were we able to demonstrate overlapping patches, although close spatial relationships were always detected. This non-overlapping distribution is consistent with a compartmentalized organization of the cerebro-pontine projection and may be the basis of the fractured type of maps found in the cerebellar granular layer. The critical distance between two sites on the neocortical surface that project to non-overlapping patches in the PN was found to be 600 microm, by using double injection within the whisker representation of the primary somatosensory area. This matches the diameter of dendritic trees of layer 5 projection neurons, indicating that non-overlapping populations of neocortical projection neurons possess non-overlapping patches of pontine terminals. Estimations based on this critical distance and the pontine volume anterogradely labeled by one injection site indicate that the size of the PN may be well suited to accommodate a complete set of non-overlapping pontine patches from all possible neocortical sites.
As clearly indicated by our electrophysiological work, GABAergic inhibition plays a powerful role in the pontine nuclei (PN), the major link between cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. Using the technique of in situ hybridization for the mRNA encoding for the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-synthesizing isoenzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase67 (GAD67), we demonstrate here the total absence of potentially GABAergic neurons from the rat PN. This negative finding supports the notion that GABAergic inhibition in the PN of rats, unlike that of higher mammals, is exclusively based on extrapontine GABAergic afferents.
We used a new slice preparation of rat brain stem to establish the basic membrane properties of neurons in the pontine nuclei (PN). Using standard intracellular recordings, we found that pontine cells displayed a resting membrane potential of -63 +/- 6 mV (mean +/- SD), an input resistance of 53 +/- 21 MOmega, a membrane time constant of 5.3 +/- 2.4 ms and were not spontaneously active. The current-voltage relationship of most of the PN neurons showed the characteristics of inward rectification in both depolarizing and hyperpolarizing directions. A prominent feature of the firing of pontine neurons was a marked firing rate adaptation, which eventually caused the cells to cease firing. Several types of membrane conductances possibly contribute to this feature. For one, a medium and a slow type of afterhyperpolarization (AHP) control the pattern of firing. The medium AHP was partly susceptible to blockade of calcium influx, whereas it was abolished completely by blockade of potassium channels with tetraethylammonium, indicating that it is based on at least two conductances: a calcium-dependent and a calcium-independent one. The slow AHP was carried by potassium ions and could be blocked effectively by preventing calcium influx into the cell. It was present after single spikes but was strongest after a high-frequency spike train. Calcium entry into the cell was mediated by high-threshold calcium channels that were detected by the generation of calcium spikes under blockade of potassium channels. Furthermore, the early phase of the firing rate adaptation was shown to be related to the time course of a slow, tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive, persistent sodium potential, which was activated already in the subthreshold range of membrane potentials. This potential was time dependent and imposed as a depolarizing "hump" with a maximum occurring in most cases between 50 and 100 ms after stimulus onset. In the suprathreshold range, it generated plateau potentials following fast spikes, if potassium channels were blocked. After the complete adaptation of the firing rate, PN neurons were observed to display irregular fluctuations of the membrane potential, which sometimes reached firing threshold thereby eliciting an irregular low-frequency spike train. As these fluctuations could be blocked with TTX, they probably are based on the persistent sodium currents. The opposing drive in hyperpolarizing direction may be provided by strong outward currents that generated a marked outward rectification in the current-voltage relationship under TTX. In conclusion, PN neurons show complex membrane properties that are reminiscent in many ways to cerebrocortical "regular firing" neurons.
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.