Accumulating evidence suggests that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays a critical role in the formation, retrieval and long-term storage of hippocampal-dependent memories. Consistent with this, there are direct hippocampal projections to the mPFC. Moreover, the mPFC sends robust projections to the perirhinal and entorhinal cortices, two interconnected cortical fields that funnel information into and out of the hippocampus. However, the significance of the latter projection remains unclear because no data are available regarding the rhinal targets of mPFC axons. This question was examined in the present study using a combination of anterograde tracing with Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin and pre-embedding γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunocytochemistry in guinea pigs. Following Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin injections in the mPFC, anterogradely labeled axons were seen in the perirhinal (mainly superficial layers) and lateral entorhinal (mainly deep layers) cortices. In the electron microscope, the synaptic articulation of anterogradely labeled mPFC axon terminals with perirhinal and entorhinal neurons was found to be nearly identical. In these two rhinal fields, mPFC axon terminals only formed asymmetric synapses, typically with GABA-immunonegative spines (≈70%) but occasionally with dendritic profiles (≈30%), half of which were GABA immunopositive. In the light of earlier observations, these findings indicate that mPFC inputs exert mainly excitatory effects in the rhinal cortices, prevalently on principal neurons. Thus, these results suggest that the mPFC may affect hippocampal-dependent memories by enhancing impulse traffic into and out of the hippocampus at the level of the rhinal cortices.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Electron microscopy
- Guinea pig
- Medial prefrontal cortex
- Tract tracing