Diverse types of interneurons generate thalamus-evoked feedforward inhibition in the mouse barrel cortex

J T Porter, C K Johnson, A Agmon
Journal of Neuroscience 2001 April 15, 21 (8): 2699-710
Sensory information, relayed through the thalamus, arrives in the neocortex as excitatory input, but rapidly induces strong disynaptic inhibition that constrains the cortical flow of excitation both spatially and temporally. This feedforward inhibition is generated by intracortical interneurons whose precise identity and properties were not known. To characterize interneurons generating feedforward inhibition, neurons in layers IV and V of mouse somatosensory ("barrel") cortex in vitro were tested in the cell-attached configuration for thalamocortically induced firing and in the whole-cell mode for synaptic responses. Identification as inhibitory or excitatory neurons was based on intrinsic firing patterns and on morphology revealed by intracellular staining. Thalamocortical stimulation evoked action potentials in approximately 60% of inhibitory interneurons but in <5% of excitatory neurons. The inhibitory interneurons that fired received fivefold larger thalamocortical inputs compared with nonfiring inhibitory or excitatory neurons. Thalamocortically evoked spikes in inhibitory interneurons followed at short latency the onset of excitatory monosynaptic responses in the same cells and slightly preceded the onset of inhibitory responses in nearby neurons, indicating their involvement in disynaptic inhibition. Both nonadapting (fast-spiking) and adapting (regular-spiking) inhibitory interneurons fired on thalamocortical stimulation, as did interneurons expressing parvalbumin, calbindin, or neither calcium-binding protein. Morphological analysis revealed that some interneurons might generate feedforward inhibition within their own layer IV barrel, whereas others may convey inhibition to upper layers, within their own or in adjacent columns. We conclude that feedforward inhibition is generated by diverse classes of interneurons, possibly serving different roles in the processing of incoming sensory information.

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