Hippocampal interneurons expressing glutamic acid decarboxylase and calcium-binding proteins decrease with aging in Fischer 344 rats.
Aging leads to alterations in the function and plasticity of hippocampal circuitry in addition to behavioral changes. To identify critical alterations in the substrate for inhibitory circuitry as a function of aging, we evaluated the numbers of hippocampal interneurons that were positive for glutamic acid decarboxylase and those that expressed calcium-binding proteins (parvalbumin, calbindin, and calretinin) in young adult (4-5 months old) and aged (23-25 months old) male Fischer 344 rats. Both the overall interneuron population and specific subpopulations of interneurons demonstrated a commensurate decline in numbers throughout the hippocampus with aging. Interneurons positive for glutamic acid decarboxylase were significantly depleted in the stratum radiatum of CA1, the strata oriens, radiatum and pyramidale of CA3, the dentate molecular layer, and the dentate hilus. Parvalbumin interneurons showed significant reductions in the strata oriens and pyramidale of CA1, the stratum pyramidale of CA3, and the dentate hilus. The reductions in calbindin interneurons were more pronounced than other calcium-binding protein-positive interneurons and were highly significant in the strata oriens and radiatum of both CA1 and CA3 subfields and in the dentate hilus. Calretinin interneurons were decreased significantly in the strata oriens and radiatum of CA3, in the dentate granule cell and molecular layers, and in the dentate hilus. However, the relative ratio of parvalbumin-, calbindin-, and calretinin-positive interneurons compared with glutamic acid decarboxylase-positive interneurons remained constant with aging, suggesting actual loss of interneurons expressing calcium-binding proteins with age. This loss contrasts with the reported preservation of pyramidal neurons with aging in the hippocampus. Functional decreases in inhibitory drive throughout the hippocampus may occur due to this loss, particularly alterations in the processing of feed-forward information through the hippocampus. In addition, such a profound alteration in interneuron number will likely alter inhibitory control of excitability and neuronal synchrony with behavioral states.
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