Longitudinally oriented axon collaterals of CA3 pyramidal cells may be critical for integrating distributed information in the hippocampus. To investigate the possible role of this pathway in the retention of spatial memory, we made a single transversely oriented cut through the dorsal CA3 region of each hippocampus. Although the lesion involved <3% of the hippocampal volume, it nonetheless disrupted memory retention in a water maze in preoperatively trained rats. New learning in a different water maze was attenuated. No significant impairment occurred in rats with longitudinally oriented cuts, or in animals with ibotenic acid-induced lesions of similar magnitude. To characterize the effect of a focal lesion on the integrity of longitudinally projecting axons, we stained degenerating cells and fibers in rats with unilateral CA3 transections by using FluoroJade-B. Degenerating terminals were seen across a wide region posterior to the cut, and were present in the strata of areas CA3 and CA1 that are innervated by CA3 pyramidal cells. These results suggest that the integrity of longitudinally oriented, translamellar axons of CA3 pyramidal cells may be necessary for efficient acquisition and retention of spatial memory
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