Although the reciprocal interconnections between the prefrontal cortex and the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus (MD) are well known, the involvement of inhibitory cortical interneurons in the neural circuit has not been fully defined. To address this issue, we conducted three combined neuroanatomical studies on the rat brain. First, the frequency and the spatial distribution of synapses made by reconstructed dendrites of nonpyramidal neurons were identified by impregnation of cortical cells with the Golgi method and identification of thalamocortical terminals by degeneration following thalamic lesions. Terminals from MD were found to make synaptic contacts with small dendritic shafts or spines of Golgi-impregnated nonpyramidal cells with very sparse dendritic spines. Second, a combined study that used anterograde transport of Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) and postembedding γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunocytochemistry indicated that PHA-L-labeled terminals from MD made synaptic junctions with GABA-immunoreactive dendritic shafts and spines. Nonlabeled dendritic spines were found to receive both axonal inputs from MD with PHA-L labelings and from GABAergic cells. In addition, synapses were found between dendritic shafts and axon terminals that were both immunoreactive for GABA. Third, synaptic connections between corticothalamic neurons that project to MD and GABAergic terminals were investigated by using wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase and postembedding GABA immunocytochemistry. GABAergic terminals in the prelimbic cortex made symmetrical synaptic contacts with retrogradely labeled corticothalamic neurons to MD. All of the synapses were found on cell somata and thick dendritic trunks. These results provide the first demonstration of synaptic contacts in the prelimbic cortex not only between thalamocortical terminals from MD and GABAergic interneurons but also between GABAergic terminals and corticothalamic neurons that project to MD. The anatomical findings indicate that GABAergic interneurons have a modulatory influence on excitatory reverberation between MD and the prefrontal cortex.
- Golgi-EM, immunohistochemistry
- Prefrontal cortex