Action potentials are the end product of synaptic integration, a process influenced by resting and active neuronal membrane properties. Diversity in these properties contributes to specialized mechanisms of synaptic integration and action potential firing, which are likely to be of functional significance within neural circuits. In the hippocampus, the majority of subicular pyramidal neurons fire high-frequency bursts of action potentials, whereas CA1 pyramidal neurons exhibit regular spiking behavior when subjected to direct somatic current injection. Using patch-clamp recordings from morphologically identified neurons in hippocampal slices, we analyzed and compared the resting and active membrane properties of pyramidal neurons in the subiculum and CA1 regions of the hippocampus. In response to direct somatic current injection, three subicular firing types were identified (regular spiking, weak bursting, and strong bursting), while all CA1 neurons were regular spiking. Within subiculum strong bursting neurons were found preferentially further away from the CA1 subregion. Input resistance (R(N)), membrane time constant (τ(m)), and depolarizing 'sag' in response to hyperpolarizing current pulses were similar in all subicular neurons, while R(N) and τ(m) were significantly larger in CA1 neurons. The first spike of all subicular neurons exhibited similar action potential properties; CA1 action potentials exhibited faster rising rates, greater amplitudes, and wider half-widths than subicular action potentials. Therefore both the resting and active properties of CA1 pyramidal neurons are distinct from those of subicular neurons, which form a related class of neurons, differing in their propensity to burst. We also found that both regular spiking subicular and CA1 neurons could be transformed into a burst firing mode by application of a low concentration of 4-aminopyridine, suggesting that in both hippocampal subfields, firing properties are regulated by a slowly inactivating, D-type potassium current. The ability of all subicular pyramidal neurons to burst strengthens the notion that they form a single neuronal class, sharing a burst generating mechanism that is stronger in some cells than others.
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