The maturational profile of the firing characteristics of 217 layer V pyramidal neurons of rat sensorimotor cortex, injected with biocytin for morphological reconstruction, was analysed by means of intracellular recordings made between postnatal day (P)3 and 22. Starting from the onset of the second postnatal week, the pyramidal neurons could be differentiated as adapting or non-adapting regular spiking on the basis of the presence or absence of spike frequency adaptation. The percentage of non-adapting regular spiking neurons was very high during the second postnatal week (53%) and progressively decreased with age, concurrently with the appearance of the new class of intrinsically bursting neurons (beginning of the third week) whose percentage progressively increased from 23%, found in P14-P16 rats, to 46% in adult rats. Non-adapting regular spiking neurons were found to share with intrinsically bursting neurons several physiological characteristics comprehending faster action potentials, more prominent effect of anomalous rectification and consistent depolarizing afterpotentials, that differentiated them from the adapting regular spiking neurons. Moreover, intrinsically bursting and non-adapting regular spiking neurons were characterized by a round-shaped distribution of basal dendrites and expanded apical dendritic arborization, that differentiated them from the adapting regular spiking neurons showing a simpler dendritic arborization. These morphological hallmarks were seen in immature intrinsically bursting neurons as soon as they became distinguishable, and in immature non-adapting regular spiking neurons starting from the onset of the second postnatal week. These findings suggest that a significant subpopulation of immature non-adapting regular spiking neurons are committed to becoming bursters, and that they are converted into intrinsically bursting neurons during the second postnatal week, as soon as the ionic current sustaining the burst firing is sufficiently strong. The faster action potentials in both immature non- adapting regular spiking and intrinsically bursting neurons suggest a higher density of Na+ channels in these neuronal classes: the maturational increase in Na+-current, namely of its persistent fraction, may represent the critical event for the conversion of the non-adapting regular spiking neurons into the intrinsically bursting ones.
- Pyramidal neurons
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