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Science 293 (5538): 2272-2275

Copyright © 2001 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Compartmentalized and Binary Behavior of Terminal Dendrites in Hippocampal Pyramidal Neurons

Dong-Sheng Wei,1 Yan-Ai Mei,1 Ashish Bagal,2 Joseph P. Y. Kao,23 Scott M. Thompson,2 Cha-Min Tang12*

The dendritic arbor of pyramidal neurons is not a monolithic structure. We show here that the excitability of terminal apical dendrites differs from that of the apical trunk. In response to fluorescence-guided focal photolysis of caged glutamate, individual terminal apical dendrites generated cadmium-sensitive all-or-none responses that were subthreshold for somatic action potentials. Calcium transients produced by all-or-none responses were not restricted to the sites of photolysis, but occurred throughout individual distal dendritic compartments, indicating that electrogenesis is mediated primarily by voltage-gated calcium channels. Compartmentalized and binary behavior of parallel-connected terminal dendrites can greatly expand the computational power of a single neuron.

1 Departments of Neurology and
2 Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.
3 Medical Biotechnology Center, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.
*   To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ctang{at}

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