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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Connections of the hippocampal formation in humans: I. The mossy fiber pathway.

The hippocampal formation has been one of the most extensively studied cortical regions in rats, yet little is known about the anatomical connections of the hippocampus in primates, especially humans. With the use of an antibody against the calcium-binding protein, calbindin-D28K, in normal autopsy tissue and the neuronal tracers biocytin or biotinylated dextrans in in vitro slice preparations from tissue removed during surgery for intractable epilepsy, we examined the human hippocampal mossy fiber pathway. The injections of biocytin into the dentate granule cell layer labeled neurons in a Golgi-like manner, revealing the presence of basal dendrites on about 30% of the granule cells. The granule cell axons, the mossy fibers, initially formed a diffuse plexus of fibers in the polymorphic layer before organizing into fiber fascicles in the hilar pyramidal region. These fiber fascicles were much more prominent rostrally than caudally. Within the hilus and proximal portions of the extrahilar CA3 field, the mossy fibers ran through the pyramidal cell layer, and while near the transition to field CA2, the fibers turned superficially and crossed the pyramidal layer to run in the stratum lucidum. All of these features, seen following injections of tracer into hippocampal slices from the brains of epileptics, were confirmed by calbindin-staining of mossy fibers in normal brains. Biocytin-labeled mossy fiber axons revealed two characteristic types of enlargements: small varicosities and larger expansions. The expansions were found throughout the neuropil and were highly irregular, diaminobenzidine-dense profiles that had pleiomorphic modes of attachment to the parent axon. Electron microscopic images of these biocytin labeled expansions revealed that they were large synaptic boutons bearing asymmetric synapses. This study indicates that the human mossy fiber pathway shows some minor deviations from the rodent brain but little difference from monkeys. We argue that these changes mirror a phylogenetic growth of the CA3 pyramidal neurons (subfield CA3c) into the hilus rather than an evolutionary change of the mossy fiber pathway. This growth of subfield CA3c and the increase in mossy fibers running through the pyramidal layer (and a presumed accompanying increase in proximal basal dendritic contacts) may reflect a growing role of the projection from the dentate granule cells to subfield CA3c and from there to field CA1 in the primate hippocampus.[1]


  1. Connections of the hippocampal formation in humans: I. The mossy fiber pathway. Lim, C., Blume, H.W., Madsen, J.R., Saper, C.B. J. Comp. Neurol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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