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Local-circuit gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic interneurons constitute a diverse population of cells, which remain poorly defined into functionally distinct subclasses. Traditionally, dendritic and axonal arbors have been used to describe cell classes. In the present report, we characterize a set of hippocampal interneurons, horizontal axo-axonic cells, located in stratum oriens. They displayed the pattern of axonal arborization characteristic of axo-axonic cells with radially aligned rows of boutons making synapses exclusively on axon initial segments of pyramidal cells, as shown by electron microscopy. However, in contrast to previously described axo-axonic cells, which have radial dendrites spanning all layers, the dendrites of the horizontal axo-axonic cells were restricted to stratum oriens and ran parallel with the layers for several hundred micrometers. Single action potentials elicited by depolarizing current steps in these cells were often followed by a fast- and medium-duration afterhyperpolarization, distinguishing them from fast-spiking interneurons. In two out of four cells, trains of action potentials showed prominent early spike frequency adaptation and a characteristic "accommodative hump." Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) could be evoked by stimuli delivered to stratum oriens. Paired recordings unequivocally confirmed direct synaptic inputs from CA1 pyramidal cells. The kinetics of the EPSPs were fast (rise time 1.7 +/- 0.6 ms, mean +/- SD, n = 3; decay time constant 19.3 +/- 2.4 ms). They showed paired-pulse depression with inter-stimulus intervals of 10-50 ms. One pair showed a reciprocal connection establishing a direct feedback loop. The axo-axonic cell-evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) were reliable (failure rate approximately 10%). Our data show that the laminar distribution of the dendrites of axo-axonic cells can vary, suggesting distinct synaptic inputs. However, this remains to be shown directly, and we cannot exclude the possibility that all axo-axonic cells may gather similar synaptic input, leaving them as one distinct class of interneuron.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





232 - 243


Action Potentials, Animals, Axons, Dendrites, Electrophysiology, Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials, Hippocampus, In Vitro Techniques, Interneurons, Nerve Net, Pyramidal Cells, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Synapses, Synaptic Membranes