Synapses made by axons of callosal projection neurons in mouse somatosensory cortex: Emphasis on intrinsic connections

Edward L. White, David Czeiger

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    51 Scopus citations


    This is one of a series of papers aimed at identifying the synaptic output patterns of the local and distant projections of subgroups of pyramidal neurons. The subgroups are defined by the target site to which their main axon projects. Pyramidal neurons in areas 1 and 40 of mouse cerebral cortex were labeled by the retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) transported from severed callosal axons in the contralateral hemisphere. Terminals of the local axon collaterals of these neurons (“intrinsic” terminals) were identified in somatosensory areas 1 and 40, and their distribution and synaptic connectivity were examined. Also examined were the synaptic connections of “extrinsic” callosal axon terminals labeled by lesion induced degeneration consequent to the severing of callosal fibers. A post‐lesion survival time of 3 days was chosen because by this time the extrinsic terminals were all degenerating, whereas the intrinsic terminals were labeled by HRP. Both intrinsic and extrinsic callosal axon terminals occurred in all layers of the cortex where they formed only asymmetrical synapses. Layers II and III contained the highest concentrations of both types of callosal axon terminal. Analyses of serial thin sections through layers II and III in both areas 1 and 40 yielded similar results: 97% of the extrinsic (277 total sample) and of the intrinsic (1215 total sample) callosal axon terminals synapsed onto dendritic spines, likely those of pyramidal neurons; the remainder synapsed onto dendritic shafts of both spiny and nonspiny neurons. Thus the synaptic output patterns of intrinsic vs. extrinsic callosal axon terminals are strikingly similar. Moreover, the high proportion of axospinous synapses formed by both types of terminal contrasts with the proportion of asymmetrical, axospinous synapses that occur in the surrounding neuropil where only about 80% of the asymmetrical synapses are onto spines. This result is in accord with previous quantitative studies of the synaptic connectivities of both extrinsic and intrinsic axonal pathways in the cortex (White and Keller, 1989: Cortical Circuits: Boston: Birkhauser): in all instances, axonal pathways are highly selective for the types of elements with which they synapse.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)233-244
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 1991


    • callosum
    • cerebral cortex
    • horseradish peroxidase

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Neuroscience (all)


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