The thalamic reticular nucleus (nRt), composed of GABAergic cells providing inhibition of relay neurons in the dorsal thalamus, receives excitation from the neocortex and thalamus. The two excitatory pathways promoting feedback or feedforward inhibition of thalamocortical neurons contribute to sensory processing and rhythm generation. While synaptic inhibition within the nRt has been carefully characterized, little is known regarding the biophysics of synaptic excitation. To characterize the functional properties of thalamocortical and corticothalamic connections to the nRt, we recorded minimal electrically evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents from nRt cells in vitro. A hierarchical clustering algorithm distinguished two types of events. Type 1 events had larger amplitudes and faster kinetics, largely mediated by α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors, whereas type 2 responses had more prominent N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor contribution. Type 1 responses showed subnormal axonal propagation and paired pulse depression, consistent with thalamocortical inputs. Furthermore, responses kinetically similar to type 1 events were evoked by glutamate-mediated activation of thalamic neurons. Type 2 responses, in contrast, likely arise from corticothalamic inputs, with larger NMDA conductance and weak Mg2+-dependent block, suggesting that NMDA receptors are critical for the cortical excitation of reticular neurons. The long-lasting action of NMDA receptors would promote reticular cell burst firing and produce powerful inhibitory output to relay neurons proposed to be important in triggering epilepsy. This work provides the first complete voltage-clamp analysis of the kinetics and voltage dependence of AMPA and NMDA responses of thalamocortical and corticothalamic synapses in the nRt and will be critical in optimizing biologically realistic neural network models of thalamocortical circuits relevant to sensory processing and thalamocortical oscillations.
- thalamic reticular nucleus
- α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor
- N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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