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Unique properties of dually innervated dendritic spines in pyramidal neurons of the somatosensory cortex uncovered by 3D correlative light and electron microscopy

O. Gemin, P. Serna, J. Zamith, N. Assendorp, M. Fossati, P. Rostaing, A. Triller, C. Charrier


Pyramidal neurons (PNs) are covered by thousands of dendritic spines receiving excitatory synaptic inputs. The ultrastructure of dendritic spines shapes signal compartmentalization, but ultrastructural diversity is rarely taken into account in computational models of synaptic integration. Here, we developed a 3D correlative light–electron microscopy (3D-CLEM) approach allowing the analysis of specific populations of synapses in genetically defined neuronal types in intact brain circuits. We used it to reconstruct segments of basal dendrites of layer 2/3 PNs of adult mouse somatosensory cortex and quantify spine ultrastructural diversity. We found that 10% of spines were dually innervated and 38% of inhibitory synapses localized to spines. Using our morphometric data to constrain a model of synaptic signal compartmentalization, we assessed the impact of spinous versus dendritic shaft inhibition. Our results indicate that spinous inhibition is locally more efficient than shaft inhibition and that it can decouple voltage and calcium signaling, potentially impacting synaptic plasticity.

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PLoS Biol 2021. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001375