On the initiation and propagation of dendritic spikes in CA1 pyramidal neurons.
We examined the hypothesis that voltage-dependent properties of dendrites allow for the accurate transfer of synaptic information to the soma independent of synapse location. This hypothesis is motivated by experimental evidence that dendrites contain a complex array of voltage-gated channels. How these channels affect synaptic integration is unknown. One hypothesized role for dendritic voltage-gated channels is to counteract passive cable properties, rendering all synapses electrotonically equidistant from the soma. With dendrites modeled as passive cables, the effect a synapse exerts at the soma depends on dendritic location (referred to as location-dependent variability of the synaptic input). In this theoretical study we used a simplified three-compartment model of a neuron to determine the dendritic voltage-dependent properties required for accurate transfer of synaptic information to the soma independent of synapse location. A dendrite that eliminates location-dependent variability requires three components: 1) a steady-state, voltage-dependent inward current that together with the passive leak current provides a net outward current and a zero slope conductance at depolarized potentials, 2) a fast, transient, inward current that compensates for dendritic membrane capacitance, and 3) both alpha amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid- and N-methyl-D-aspartate-like synaptic conductances that together permit synapses to behave as ideal current sources. These components are consistent with the known properties of dendrites. In addition, these results indicate that a dendrite designed to eliminate location-dependent variability also actively back-propagates somatic action potentials.