April 12, 2021

Layer 6A pyramidal cells subtypes form synaptic microcircuits with distinct functional and structural properties

Neocortical layer 6 plays a crucial role in sensorimotor coordination and integration through functionally segregated circuits linking intracortical and subcortical areas. However, because of the high neuronal heterogeneity and sparse intralaminar connectivity data on the cell-type specific synaptic microcircuits in layer 6 remain few and far between. To address this issue, whole-cell recordings combined with morphological reconstructions have been used to identify morphoelectric types of layer 6A pyramidal cells (PCs) in rat barrel cortex. Cortico-thalamic (CT), corticocortical (CC) and cortico-claustral (CCla) pyramidal cells have been distinguished based on to their distinct dendritic and axonal morphologies as well as their different electrophysiological properties. Here we demonstrate that these three types of layer 6A pyramidal cells innervate neighboring excitatory neurons with distinct synaptic properties: CT PCs establish weak facilitating synapses to other L6A PCs; CC PCs form synapses of moderate efficacy; while synapses made by putative CCla PCs display the highest release probability and a marked short-term depression. Furthermore, for excitatory-inhibitory synaptic connections in layer 6 we were able to show that both the presynaptic PC type and the postsynaptic interneuron type govern the dynamic properties of the of the respective synaptic connections. We have identified a functional division of local layer 6A excitatory microcircuits which may be responsible of the differential temporal engagement of layer 6 feed-forward and feedback networks. Our results provides a basis for further investigations on the long-range cortico-cortical, cortico-thalamic and cortico-claustral pathways.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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