Mixed electrical–chemical synapses in adult rat hippocampus are primarily glutamatergic and coupled by connexin-36
- 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
- 2 Program in Neural and Behavioral Science, Downstate Medical Center, State University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- 3 Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, Friedman Brain Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
- 4 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
- 5 Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Downstate Medical Center, State University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, USA
- 6 Department of Pharmacobiology, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional, México D.F.
- 7 Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
- 8 Program in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Neurosciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Dendrodendritic electrical signaling via gap junctions is now an accepted feature of neuronal communication in mammalian brain, whereas axodendritic and axosomatic gap junctions have rarely been described. We present ultrastructural, immunocytochemical, and dye-coupling evidence for “mixed” (electrical/chemical) synapses on both principal cells and interneurons in adult rat hippocampus. Thin-section electron microscopic images of small gap junction-like appositions were found at mossy fiber (MF) terminals on thorny excrescences of CA3 pyramidal neurons (CA3pyr), apparently forming glutamatergic mixed synapses. Lucifer Yellow injected into weakly fixed CA3pyr was detected in MF axons that contacted four injected CA3pyr, supporting gap junction-mediated coupling between those two types of principal cells. Freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling revealed diverse sizes and morphologies of connexin-36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus. Of 20 immunogold-labeled gap junctions, seven were large (328–1140 connexons), three of which were consistent with electrical synapses between interneurons; but nine were at axon terminal synapses, three of which were immediately adjacent to distinctive glutamate receptor-containing postsynaptic densities, forming mixed glutamatergic synapses. Four others were adjacent to small clusters of immunogold-labeled 10-nm E-face intramembrane particles, apparently representing extrasynaptic glutamate receptor particles. Gap junctions also were on spines in stratum lucidum, stratum oriens, dentate gyrus, and hilus, on both interneurons and unidentified neurons. In addition, one putative GABAergic mixed synapse was found in thin-section images of a CA3pyr, but none were found by immunogold labeling, suggesting the rarity of GABAergic mixed synapses. Cx36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus suggest the possibility of reciprocal modulation of electrical and chemical signals in diverse hippocampal neurons.
Keywords: CA3, dentate gyrus, interneuron, pyramidal neuron, principal cell, mossy fiber, gap junction
Citation: Hamzei-Sichani F, Davidson KGV, Yasumura T, Janssen WGM, Wearne SL, Hof PR, Traub RD, Gutiérrez R, Ottersen OP and Rash JE (2012) Mixed electrical–chemical synapses in adult rat hippocampus are primarily glutamatergic and coupled by connexin-36. Front. Neuroanat. 6:13. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2012.00013
Received: 28 December 2010; Accepted: 19 April 2012;
Published online: 15 May 2012.
Copyright: © 2012 Hamzei-Sichani, Davidson, Yasumura, Janssen, Wearne, Hof, Traub, Gutiérrez, Ottersen and Rash. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence: John E. Rash, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
†Present address: Roger D. Traub, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598, USA.
‡Farid Hamzei-Sichani and Kimberly G. V. Davidson have contributed equally to this work.
#Deceased September 4, 2009.