Electron microscopic serial-sectioning/reconstruction study of parvalbumin-containing neurons in the external plexiform layer of the rat olfactory bulb
ABSTRACT Neurons containing a calcium-binding protein parvalbumin in the external plexiform layer of the rat olfactory bulb were identified light microscopically with the pre-embedding immunocytochemistry and were subsequently analysed with the electron microscopic serial-sectioning and three-dimensional reconstructions. In the present study we chose several different types of parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons identified light microscopically as Van Gehuchten cell type, superficial short-axon cell type and multipolar cell type. Parvalbumin-immunoreactive somata were similar to one another in their ultrastructural characteristics, showing nuclear indentations, moderately developed Golgi apparatus and abundant mitochondria; these structural features appeared to resemble those of the short axon cells around the glomeruli and in the granule cell layer reported in previous electron microscopic studies. All neurons analysed in the present study made symmetrical synapses on to dendrites and somata of presumed mitral/tufted cells and received asymmetrical synapses from them, and occasionally formed reciprocal synapses with them. On the parvalbumin-immunoreactive processes, the asymmetrical synapses nearly equalled the symmetrical ones in number and about 30–50% of them were identified as reciprocal pairs. In contrast, no presynaptic sites were observed on parvalbumin-immunoreactive somata, and thick portions (more than approximately 2 μm in diameter) of the proximal dendrites, where they were occasionally postsynaptic in some asymmetrical and symmetrical synapses from parvalbumin-immunonegative profiles. Characteristically, parvalbumin-immunoreactive processes frequently make direct contacts with one another; processes regarded light microscopically as arising from a soma or a dendrite or parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons were sometimes revealed to be separate but directly contacting processes with electron microscopic examinations. Although puncta adherentia were occasionally observed between these contact sites, so far neither gap junctions nor chemical synapses were observed.Until now, it has been believed that in the external plexiform layer only granule cells form reciprocal synapses with mitral/tufted cells. However, the present study clearly demonstrates that interneurons different from granule cells, namely GABAergic neurons containing a calcium-binding protein parvalbumin, also make reciprocal synapses with mitral/tufted cells in the external plexiform layer. Therefore, neuronal processes making reciprocal synapses with mitral/tufted cells in the external plexiform layer cannot be determined a priori as granule cell processes.