Neuronal synchrony is important to network behavior in many brain regions. In the olfactory bulb, principal neurons (mitral cells) project apical dendrites to a common glomerulus where they receive a common input. Synchronized activity within a glomerulus depends on chemical transmission but mitral cells are also electrically coupled. We examined the role of connexin-mediated gap junctions in mitral cell coordinated activity. Electrical coupling as well as correlated spiking between mitral cells projecting to the same glomerulus was entirely absent in connexin36 (Cx36) knockout mice. Ultrastructural analysis of glomeruli confirmed that mitral-mitral cell gap junctions on distal apical dendrites contain Cx36. Coupled AMPA responses between mitral cell pairs were absent in the knockout, demonstrating that electrical coupling, not transmitter spillover, is responsible for synchronization. Our results indicate that Cx36-mediated gap junctions between mitral cells orchestrate rapid coordinated signaling via a novel form of electrochemical transmission.
ASJC Scopus subject areas