Mossy fiber (hippocampus)

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In the hippocampus, granule cells of the dentate gyrus form distinctive unmyelinated axons that project along the mossy fiber pathway to the Cornu Ammonis area 3,(CA3) . The axons emerge from the basal portions of the granule cells and pass through the hilus (or polymorphic cell layer) of the dentate gyrus before entering the stratum lucidum of CA3. Granule cell synapses tend to be glutamatergic (e.g. excitatory), though immunohistological data has indicated that some synapses contain neuropeptidergic elements including opiate peptides such as dynorphin and enkephalin. Moreover, there is growing evidence for co-localization of GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitters within mossy fiber terminals, though the functional consequence of this colocalization is unclear.[1]

The pathway was so named by Ramon y Cajal because the axons display varicosities all along their lengths, giving them a "mossy" appearance. These mossy fibers form multiple synapses with the elaborate dendritic spines of CA3 pyramidal cells in stratum lucidum. These complex spines are known as "thorny excrescences". It has also been shown that the axons of granule cells synapse with a wide variety of inhibitory GABA interneurons in the hilar region of the dentate gyrus before continuing on to innervate pyramidal cells in the CA3 region. A single mossy fiber projection may make as many as 37 contacts with a single pyramidal cell, but innervates only about a dozen different pyramidal cells. In contrast, a single CA3 pyramidal cell receives input from about 50 different granule cells. It has been shown in rodents that the size of the mossy fiber projections can show large interindividual variations, which are to a large part heritable.[2] In addition, these variations show strong correlations with different types of behavior, mainly, but not exclusively, spatial learning.[3]

See also[edit]

Mossy fiber (cerebellum), which shares little similarity with its hippocampal namesake.


  1. ^ Sandler, R; Smith, AD (1991). "Coexistence of GABA and glutamate in mossy fiber terminals of the primate hippocampus: an ultrastructural study". The Journal of Comparative Neurology 303 (2): 177–192. doi:10.1002/cne.903030202. PMID 1672874. 
  2. ^ Crusio WE, Genthner-Grimm G, Schwegler H (2007). "A quantitative-genetic analysis of hippocampal variation in the mouse". J. Neurogenet. 21 (4): 197–208. doi:10.1080/01677060701715827. PMID 18161583. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  3. ^ Crusio WE, Schwegler H (April 2005). "Learning spatial orientation tasks in the radial-maze and structural variation in the hippocampus in inbred mice". Behav Brain Funct 1 (1): 3. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-1-3. PMC 1143776. PMID 15916698. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  • Dale Purves et al. (2001). Neuroscience. Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates. ISBN 0-87893-742-0. 
  • Gordon M. Shepherd (1998). The synaptic organization of the brain. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511824-3.