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05/17/17 | Integrating Results across Methodologies Is Essential for Producing Robust Neuronal Taxonomies.
Cembrowski MS, Spruston N
Neuron. 2017 May 17;94(4):747-751.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.04.023

Elucidating the diversity and spatial organization of cell types in the brain is an essential goal of neuroscience, with many emerging technologies helping to advance this endeavor. Using a new in situ hybridization method that can measure the expression of hundreds of genes in a given mouse brain section (amplified seqFISH), Shah et al. (2016) describe a spatial organization of hippocampal cell types that differs from previous reports. In seeking to understand this discrepancy, we find that many of the barcoded genes used by seqFISH to characterize this spatial organization, when cross-validated by other sensitive methodologies, exhibit negligible expression in the hippocampus. Additionally, the results of Shah et al. (2016) do not recapitulate canonical cellular hierarchies and improperly classify major neuronal cell types. We suggest that, when describing the spatial organization of brain regions, cross-validation using multiple techniques should be used to yield robust and informative cellular classification. This Matters Arising paper is in response to Shah et al. (2016), published in Neuron. See also the response by Shah et al. (2017), published in this issue.

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04/26/16 | Hipposeq: a comprehensive RNA-seq database of gene expression in hippocampal principal neurons.
Cembrowski MS, Wang L, Sugino K, Shields BC, Spruston N
eLife. 2016;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.14997

Clarifying gene expression in narrowly defined neuronal populations can provide insight into cellular identity, computation, and functionality. Here, we used next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) to produce a quantitative, whole genome characterization of gene expression for the major excitatory neuronal classes of the hippocampus; namely, granule cells and mossy cells of the dentate gyrus, and pyramidal cells of areas CA3, CA2, and CA1. Moreover, for the canonical cell classes of the trisynaptic loop, we profiled transcriptomes at both dorsal and ventral poles, producing a cell-class- and region-specific transcriptional description for these populations. This dataset clarifies the transcriptional properties and identities of lesser-known cell classes, and moreover reveals unexpected variation in the trisynaptic loop across the dorsal-ventral axis. We have created a public resource, Hipposeq (, which provides analysis and visualization of these data and will act as a roadmap relating molecules to cells, circuits, and computation in the hippocampus.

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02/18/16 | Structured Dendritic Inhibition Supports Branch-Selective Integration in CA1 Pyramidal Cells.
Bloss EB, Cembrowski MS, Karsh B, Colonell J, Fetter RD, Spruston N
Neuron. 2016 Feb 18:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.01.029

Neuronal circuit function is governed by precise patterns of connectivity between specialized groups of neurons. The diversity of GABAergic interneurons is a hallmark of cortical circuits, yet little is known about their targeting to individual postsynaptic dendrites. We examined synaptic connectivity between molecularly defined inhibitory interneurons and CA1 pyramidal cell dendrites using correlative light-electron microscopy and large-volume array tomography. We show that interneurons can be highly selective in their connectivity to specific dendritic branch types and, furthermore, exhibit precisely targeted connectivity to the origin or end of individual branches. Computational simulations indicate that the observed subcellular targeting enables control over the nonlinear integration of synaptic input or the initiation and backpropagation of action potentials in a branch-selective manner. Our results demonstrate that connectivity between interneurons and pyramidal cell dendrites is more precise and spatially segregated than previously appreciated, which may be a critical determinant of how inhibition shapes dendritic computation.

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01/20/16 | Spatial Gene-Expression Gradients Underlie Prominent Heterogeneity of CA1 Pyramidal Neurons.
Cembrowski MS, Bachman JL, Wang L, Sugino K, Shields BC, Spruston N
Neuron. 2016 Jan 13:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.12.013

Tissue and organ function has been conventionally understood in terms of the interactions among discrete and homogeneous cell types. This approach has proven difficult in neuroscience due to the marked diversity across different neuron classes, but it may be further hampered by prominent within-class variability. Here, we considered a well-defined canonical neuronal population-hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells (CA1 PCs)-and systematically examined the extent and spatial rules of transcriptional heterogeneity. Using next-generation RNA sequencing, we identified striking variability in CA1 PCs, such that the differences within CA1 along the dorsal-ventral axis rivaled differences across distinct pyramidal neuron classes. This variability emerged from a spectrum of continuous gene-expression gradients, producing a transcriptional profile consistent with a multifarious continuum of cells. This work reveals an unexpected amount of variability within a canonical and narrowly defined neuronal population and suggests that continuous, within-class heterogeneity may be an important feature of neural circuits.

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11/26/15 | Dendritic integration: 60 years of progress.
Stuart GJ, Spruston N
Nature Neuroscience. 2015 Dec;18(12):1713-21. doi: 10.1038/nn.4157

Understanding how individual neurons integrate the thousands of synaptic inputs they receive is critical to understanding how the brain works. Modeling studies in silico and experimental work in vitro, dating back more than half a century, have revealed that neurons can perform a variety of different passive and active forms of synaptic integration on their inputs. But how are synaptic inputs integrated in the intact brain? With the development of new techniques, this question has recently received substantial attention, with new findings suggesting that many of the forms of synaptic integration observed in vitro also occur in vivo, including in awake animals. Here we review six decades of progress, which collectively highlights the complex ways that single neurons integrate their inputs, emphasizing the critical role of dendrites in information processing in the brain.

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12/18/13 | Balanced synaptic impact via distance-dependent synapse distribution and complementary expression of AMPARs and NMDARs in hippocampal dendrites.
Menon V, Musial TF, Liu A, Katz Y, Kath WL, Spruston N, Nicholson DA
Neuron. 2013 Dec 18;80:1451-63. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.09.027

Neuronal computation involves the integration of synaptic inputs that are often distributed over expansive dendritic trees, suggesting the need for compensatory mechanisms that enable spatially disparate synapses to influence neuronal output. In hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, such mechanisms have indeed been reported, which normalize either the ability of distributed synapses to drive action potential initiation in the axon or their ability to drive dendritic spiking locally. Here we report that these mechanisms can coexist, through an elegant combination of distance-dependent regulation of synapse number and synaptic expression of AMPA and NMDA receptors. Together, these complementary gradients allow individual dendrites in both the apical and basal dendritic trees of hippocampal neurons to operate as facile computational subunits capable of supporting both global integration in the soma/axon and local integration in the dendrite.

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10/01/13 | Mechanisms of retroaxonal barrage firing in hippocampal interneurons.
Sheffield MEJ, Edgerton GB, Heuermann RJ, Deemyad T, Mensh BD, Spruston N
The Journal of Physiology. 2013 Oct 1;591(Pt 19):4793-805. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.258418

Abstract We recently described a new form of neural integration and firing in a subset of interneurons, in which evoking hundreds of action potentials over tens of seconds to minutes produces a sudden barrage of action potentials lasting about a minute beyond the inciting stimulation. During this persistent firing, action potentials are generated in the distal axon and propagate retrogradely to the soma. To distinguish this from other forms of persistent firing, we refer to it here as ’retroaxonal barrage firing’, or ’barrage firing’ for short. Its induction is blocked by chemical inhibitors of gap junctions and curiously, stimulation of one interneuron in some cases triggers barrage firing in a nearby, unstimulated interneuron. Beyond these clues, the mechanisms of barrage firing are unknown. Here we report new results related to these mechanisms. Induction of barrage firing was blocked by lowering extracellular calcium, as long as normal action potential threshold was maintained, and it was inhibited by blocking L-type voltage-gated calcium channels. Despite its calcium dependence, barrage firing was not prevented by inhibiting chemical synaptic transmission. Furthermore, loading the stimulated/recorded interneuron with BAPTA did not block barrage firing, suggesting that the required calcium entry occurs in other cells. Finally, barrage firing was normal in mice with deletion of the primary gene for neuronal gap junctions (connexin36), suggesting that non-neuronal gap junctions may be involved. Together, these findings suggest that barrage firing is probably triggered by a multicellular mechanism involving calcium signalling and gap junctions, but operating independently of chemical synaptic transmission.

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