Repetitive firing and oscillatory activity of pyramidal-like bursting neurons in the rat subiculum

Donatella Mattia, Hiroto Kawasaki, Massimo Avoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrophysiological characterization of neurons within the rat subiculum was carried out with intracellular recordings in an in vitro slice preparation. Subicular neurons responded to threshold pulses of depolarizing current delivered at a resting membrane potential (RMP) of -65.7 ± 5.8 mV (mean ± SD, n = 85) with an initial burst of three to five fast action potentials that rode on a depolarizing envelope and was terminated by an afterhyperpolarization (burst AHP) (duration 113 ± 35 ms; peak amplitude 2.7 ± 0.6 mV, n = 10). Tonic firing replaced the bursting mode at membrane potential less negative than -55 mV. Suprathreshold depolarizing pulses evoked at RMP both an initial burst and successive tonic firing. Intracellular staining with biocytin showed morphological features typical of pyramidal cells (n = 8). The relationship between frequency of repetitive firing and injected current (f-I) revealed that the burst firing frequency (250-300 Hz) was only slightly influenced by the amount of injected current. By contrast, the f-I curve of the tonic firing phase depended upon current intensity: it displayed an initial segment that increased at first linearly and then turned into a plateau for both the early and the late inter-spike intervals. The frequency of the tonic firing declined only slightly with time, thus suggesting a lack of adaptation. During tonic firing, each single action potential was followed by a fast AHP and a depolarizing afterpotential. Termination of repetitive firing was followed by an AHP (spike-train AHP; duration 223 ± 101 ms, peak amplitude 5.6 ± 2.4 mV, n = 17). Fast spike-train and burst AHPs were reduced by bath applica tion of the Ca2+-channel blockers Co2+ (2 mM) and Cd2+ (1 mM) (n = 8), thus suggesting the participation of Ca2+-dependent K+ conductances in these AHPs. Subicular bursting neurons generated persistent, subthreshold voltage oscillations at 5.3 ± 1 Hz (n = 20) during steady depolarization positive to -60 mV; at values positive to -55 mV, the oscillatory activity could trigger clusters of single action potentials with a periodicity of 0.9-2 Hz. Oscillations were not prevented by application of excitatory amino acid receptor and GABA(A) receptor antagonists (n = 5), Ca2+-channel blockers (n = 5), or Cs+ (3 mM; n = 4), but were abolished by the Na+-channel blocker tetrodotoxin (1 μM; n = 6). Our findings demonstrate that pyramidal-like subicular neurons generate both bursting and non-adapting tonic firing, depending upon their membrane potential. These neurons also display oscillatory activity in the range of theta frequency that depends on the activation of a voltage-gated Na+ conductance. These electrophysiological properties may play a role in the process of signals arising from the hippocampal formation before being funnelled towards other limbic structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Afterhyperpolarizations
  • Firing modes
  • Membrane oscillations
  • Subiculum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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