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1.  The glutamate story 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2006;147(Suppl 1):S100-S108.
Glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system was slowly established over a period of some 20 years, dating from the 1950s. Realisation that glutamate and like amino acids (collectively known as excitatory amino acids (EAA)) mediated their excitatory actions via multiple receptors preceded establishment of these receptors as synaptic transmitter receptors. EAA receptors were initially classified as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA receptors, the latter subdivided into quisqualate (later AMPA) and kainate receptors after agonists that appeared to activate these receptors preferentially, and by their sensitivity to a range of differentially acting antagonists developed progressively during the 1970s. NMDA receptors were definitively shown to be synaptic receptors on spinal neurones by the sensitivity of certain excitatory pathways in the spinal cord to a range of specific NMDA receptor antagonists. Importantly, specific NMDA receptor antagonists appeared to be less effective at synapses in higher centres. In contrast, antagonists that also blocked non-NMDA as well as NMDA receptors were almost universally effective at blocking synaptic excitation within the brain and spinal cord, establishing both the existence and ubiquity of non-NMDA synaptic receptor systems throughout the CNS. In the early 1980s, NMDA receptors were shown to be involved in several central synaptic pathways, acting in concert with non-NMDA receptors under conditions where a protracted excitatory postsynaptic potential was effected in response to intense stimulation of presynaptic fibres. Such activation of NMDA receptors together with non-NMDA receptors led to the phenomenon of long-term potentiation (LTP), associated with lasting changes in synaptic efficacy (synaptic plasticity) and considered to be an important process in memory and learning. During the 1980s, it was shown that certain glutamate receptors in the brain mediated biochemical changes that were not susceptible to NMDA or non-NMDA receptor antagonists. This dichotomy was resolved in the early 1990s by the techniques of molecular biology, which identified two families of glutamate-binding receptor proteins (ionotropic (iGlu) and metabotropic (mGlu) receptors). Development of antagonists binding to specific protein subunits is currently enabling precise identification of discrete iGlu or mGlu receptor subtypes that participate in a range of central synaptic processes, including synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC1760733  PMID: 16402093
L-Glutamate; excitatory amino acids; ionotropic glutamate receptors; metabotropic glutamate receptors; synaptic transmission
2.  Neto1 Is a Novel CUB-Domain NMDA Receptor–Interacting Protein Required for Synaptic Plasticity and Learning 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(2):e1000041.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), a major excitatory ligand-gated ion channel in the central nervous system (CNS), is a principal mediator of synaptic plasticity. Here we report that neuropilin tolloid-like 1 (Neto1), a complement C1r/C1s, Uegf, Bmp1 (CUB) domain-containing transmembrane protein, is a novel component of the NMDAR complex critical for maintaining the abundance of NR2A-containing NMDARs in the postsynaptic density. Neto1-null mice have depressed long-term potentiation (LTP) at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses, with the subunit dependency of LTP induction switching from the normal predominance of NR2A- to NR2B-NMDARs. NMDAR-dependent spatial learning and memory is depressed in Neto1-null mice, indicating that Neto1 regulates NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic plasticity and cognition. Remarkably, we also found that the deficits in LTP, learning, and memory in Neto1-null mice were rescued by the ampakine CX546 at doses without effect in wild-type. Together, our results establish the principle that auxiliary proteins are required for the normal abundance of NMDAR subunits at synapses, and demonstrate that an inherited learning defect can be rescued pharmacologically, a finding with therapeutic implications for humans.
Author Summary
The fundamental unit for information processing in the brain is the synapse, a highly specialized site of communication between the brain's multitude of individual neurons. The strength of the communication at each synapse changes in response to neuronal activity—a process called synaptic plasticity—allowing networks of neurons to adapt and learn. How synaptic plasticity occurs is a major question in neurobiology. A central player in synaptic plasticity is an assembly of synaptic proteins called the NMDA receptor complex. Here, we discovered that the protein Neto1 is a component of the NMDA receptor complex. Neto1-deficient mice had a dramatic decrease in the number of NMDA receptors at synapses and consequently, synaptic plasticity and learning were impaired. By indirectly enhancing the function of the residual NMDA receptors in Neto1-deficient mice with a small molecule, we restored synaptic plasticity and learning to normal levels. Our findings establish the principle that inherited abnormalities of synaptic plasticity and learning due to NMDA receptor dysfunction can be pharmacologically corrected. Our discoveries also suggest that synaptic proteins that share a molecular signature, called the CUB domain, with Neto1 may be important components of synaptic receptors across species, because several CUB-domain proteins in worms have also been found to regulate synaptic receptors.
Spatial learning and memory depend on the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor, a synaptic ion channel regulated by Neto1. Impaired cognition due to the absence of Neto1 can be rescued pharmacologically, a finding with implications for the therapy of inherited learning defects in humans.
PMCID: PMC2652390  PMID: 19243221
3.  Dynamin-dependent NMDAR endocytosis during LTD and its dependence on synaptic state 
BMC Neuroscience  2005;6:48.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptor expressed at excitatory glutamatergic synapses is required for learning and memory and is critical for normal brain function. At a cellular level, this receptor plays a pivotal role in triggering and controlling synaptic plasticity. While it has been long recognized that this receptor plays a regulatory role, it was considered by many to be itself immune to synaptic activity-induced plasticity. More recently, we and others have shown that NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses can be subject to activity-dependent depression.
Here we show that depression of synaptic transmission mediated by NMDA receptors displays a state-dependence in its plasticity; NMDA receptors are resistant to activity-induced changes at silent and recently-silent synapses. Once synapses transition to the active state however, NMDA receptors become fully 'plastic'. This state-dependence is identical to that shown by the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptor. Furthermore, the down-regulation of NMDAR-mediated responses during synaptic depression is prevented by disruption of dynamin-dependent endocytosis.
NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses are plastic in a state-dependent manner. Depending on the plasticity state in which a synapse currently resides, NMDA receptors will either be available or unavailable for down-regulation. The mechanism underlying the down-regulation of NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses is endocytosis of the NMDA receptor. Other potential mechanisms, such as receptor diffusion along the plane of the membrane, or changes in the activity of the channel are not supported. The mechanisms of AMPA receptor and NMDA receptor endocytosis appear to be tightly coupled, as both are either available or unavailable for endocytosis in the same synaptic states. Endocytosis of NMDA receptors would serve as a potent mechanism for metaplasticity. Such state-dependent regulation of NMDAR endocytosis will provide fundamental control over downstream NMDA receptor-dependent plasticity of neuronal circuitry.
PMCID: PMC1187896  PMID: 16042781
4.  Cingulate NMDA NR2B receptors contribute to morphine-induced analgesic tolerance 
Molecular Brain  2008;1:2.
Morphine is widely used to treat chronic pain, however its utility is hindered by the development of tolerance to its analgesic effects. While N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are known to play roles in morphine tolerance and dependence, less is known about the roles of individual NMDA receptor subtypes. In this study, Ro 256981, an antagonist of the NMDA receptor subunit NR2B, was used to reduce the expression of analgesic tolerance to morphine. The mechanisms altered with chronic drug use share similarities with those underlying the establishment of long-tem potentiation (LTP) and behavioral memory. Since NMDA NR2B receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) play roles in the establishment of LTP and fear memory, we explored their role in changes that occur in this region after chronic morphine. Both systemic and intra-ACC inhibition of NR2B in morphine-tolerant animals inhibited the expression of analgesic tolerance. Electrophysiological recordings revealed a significant increase in the NR2B component of NMDA receptor mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), at both synaptic and extra-synaptic sites. However, there was no change in alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor mediated EPSCs. This study suggests that selective inhibition of NMDA NR2B receptors may prove useful in combating the development of analgesic tolerance to morphine and proposes a novel role for the ACC in opioid tolerance and morphine induced changes in synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2546399  PMID: 18803856
5.  AKAP Signaling Complexes in Regulation of Excitatory Synaptic Plasticity 
Plasticity at excitatory glutamatergic synapses in the central nervous system is believed to be critical for neuronal circuits to process and encode information allowing animals to perform complex behaviors such as learning and memory. In addition, alterations in synaptic plasticity are associated with human diseases including Alzheimer's, epilepsy, chronic pain, drug addiction, and schizophrenia. Long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD) in the hippocampal region of the brain are two forms of synaptic plasticity that increase or decrease, respectively, the strength of synaptic transmission by postsynaptic AMPA-type glutamate receptors. Both LTP and LTD are induced by activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors but differ in the level and duration of Ca2+ influx through the NMDA receptor and the subsequent engagement of downstream signaling by protein kinases including PKA, PKC, and CaMKII and phosphatases including PP1 and calcineurin-PP2B (CaN). This review addresses the important emerging roles of the A-kinase anchoring protein (AKAP) family of scaffold proteins in regulating localization of PKA and other kinases and phosphatases to postsynaptic multi-protein complexes that control NMDA and AMPA receptor function during LTP and LTD.
PMCID: PMC3126619  PMID: 21498812
6.  Role of motor cortex NMDA receptors in learning-dependent synaptic plasticity of behaving mice 
Nature Communications  2013;4:2258.
The primary motor cortex has an important role in the precise execution of learned motor responses. During motor learning, synaptic efficacy between sensory and primary motor cortical neurons is enhanced, possibly involving long-term potentiation and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-specific glutamate receptor function. To investigate whether NMDA receptor in the primary motor cortex can act as a coincidence detector for activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength and associative learning, here we generate mice with deletion of the Grin1 gene, encoding the essential NMDA receptor subunit 1 (GluN1), specifically in the primary motor cortex. The loss of NMDA receptor function impairs primary motor cortex long-term potentiation in vivo. Importantly, it impairs the synaptic efficacy between the primary somatosensory and primary motor cortices and significantly reduces classically conditioned eyeblink responses. Furthermore, compared with wild-type littermates, mice lacking primary motor cortex show slower learning in Skinner-box tasks. Thus, primary motor cortex NMDA receptors are necessary for activity-dependent synaptic strengthening and associative learning.
Motor cortex NMDA receptors have a key role in the acquisition of associative memories. Hasan et al. generate mice lacking NMDA receptor activity in the motor cortex and find that this impairs LTP, strengthening of synapses between somatosensory and motor cortices, and associative learning.
PMCID: PMC3759079  PMID: 23978820
7.  Requirement of extracellular signal-regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase for long-term potentiation in adult mouse anterior cingulate cortex 
Molecular Pain  2007;3:36.
Long-term potentiation (LTP) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is believed to be critical for higher brain functions including emotion, learning, memory and chronic pain. N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent LTP is well studied and is thought to be important for learning and memory in mammalian brains. As the downstream target of NMDA receptors, the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade has been extensively studied for its involvement in synaptic plasticity, learning and memory in hippocampus. By contrast, the role of ERK in cingulate LTP has not been investigated. In this study, we examined whether LTP in ACC requires the activation of ERK. We found that P42/P44 MAPK inhibitors, PD98059 and U0126, suppressed the induction of cingulate LTP that was induced by presynaptic stimulation with postsynaptic depolarization (the pairing protocol). We also showed that cingulate LTP induced by two other different protocols was also blocked by PD98059. Moreover, we found that these two inhibitors had no effect on the maintenance of cingulate LTP. Inhibitors of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38, other members of MAPK family, SP600125 and SB203850, suppressed the induction of cingulate LTP generated by the pairing protocol. Thus, our study suggests that the MAPK signaling pathway is involved in the induction of cingulate LTP and plays a critical role in physiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC2245920  PMID: 18053155
8.  Ethanol Inhibition of Recombinant NMDA Receptors Is Not Altered by Co-Expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2008;42(5):425-432.
Previous studies have shown that the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is an important target for the actions of ethanol in the brain. NMDA receptors are glutamate-activated ion channels that are highly expressed in neurons. They are activated during periods of significant glutamatergic synaptic activity and are an important source of the signaling molecule calcium in the post-synaptic spine. Alterations in the function of NMDA receptors by drugs or disease are associated with deficits in motor, sensory and cognitive processes of the brain. Acutely, ethanol inhibits ion flow through NMDA receptors while sustained exposure to ethanol can induce compensatory changes in the density and localization of the receptor. Defining factors that govern the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors is an important step in how an individual responds to ethanol. In the present study, we investigated the effect of calcium-calmodulin dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) on the ethanol sensitivity of recombinant NMDA receptors. CaMKII is a major constituent of the post-synaptic density and is critically involved in various forms of learning and memory. NMDA receptor subunits were transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells (HEK 293) along with CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β tagged with the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Whole cell currents were elicited by brief exposures to glutamate and were measured using patchclamp electrophysiology. Neither CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β had any significant effect on the ethanol inhibition of NR1/2A or NR1/2B receptors. Ethanol inhibition was also unaltered by deletion of CaMKII binding domains in NR1 or NR2 subunits or by phospho-site mutants that mimic or occlude CaMKII phosphorylation. Chronic treatment of cortical neurons with ethanol had no significant effect on the expression of CaMKII-α or CaMKII-β. The results of this study suggest that CaMKII is not involved in regulating the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDA receptors.
PMCID: PMC2629600  PMID: 18562151
electrophysiology; alcohol; ion channel; kinase; phosphorylation
9.  A neuroligin-1-derived peptide stimulates phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor NR1 subunit and rescues MK-801-induced decrease in long-term potentiation and memory impairment 
Neuroligins (NLs) are postsynaptic adhesion molecules, interacting with presynaptic neurexins (NXs), which determine the differential formation of excitatory (glutamatergic, NL1) and inhibitory (GABAergic, NL2) synapses. We have previously demonstrated that treatment with a NL2-derived peptide, neurolide-2, reduces sociability and increase animal aggression. We hypothesized that interfering with NL1 function at the excitatory synapses might regulate synaptic plasticity and learning, and counteract memory deficits induced by N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor inhibition. First, neuronal NMDA receptor phosphorylation after treatment with NL1 or a mimetic peptide, neurolide-1, was quantified by immunoblotting. Subsequently, we investigated effects of neurolide-1 on long-term potentiation (LTP) induction in hippocampal slices compromised by NMDA receptor inhibitor MK-801. Finally, we investigated neurolide-1 effects on short- and long-term social and spatial memory in social recognition, Morris water-maze, and Y-maze tests. We found that subcutaneous neurolide-1 administration, restored hippocampal LTP compromised by NMDA receptor inhibitor MK-801. It counteracted MK-801-induced memory deficit in the water-maze and Y-maze tests after long-term treatment (24 h and 1–2 h before the test), but not after short-term exposure (1–2 h). Long-term exposure to neurolide-1 also facilitated social recognition memory. In addition, neurolide-1-induced phosphorylation of the NMDA receptor NR1 subunit on a site important for synaptic trafficking, potentially favoring synaptic receptor retention. Our findings emphasize the role of NL1–NMDA receptor interaction in cognition, and identify neurolide-1, as a valuable pharmacological tool to examine the in vivo role of postsynaptic NL1 in cognitive behavior in physiological and pathological conditions.
PMCID: PMC4448987  PMID: 26038702
Learning and memory; LTP; MK-801; neuroligin; NMDA receptor
10.  The Effects of NR2 Subunit-Dependent NMDA Receptor Kinetics on Synaptic Transmission and CaMKII Activation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(10):e1000208.
N-Methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors are widely expressed in the brain and are critical for many forms of synaptic plasticity. Subtypes of the NMDA receptor NR2 subunit are differentially expressed during development; in the forebrain, the NR2B receptor is dominant early in development, and later both NR2A and NR2B are expressed. In heterologous expression systems, NR2A-containing receptors open more reliably and show much faster opening and closing kinetics than do NR2B-containing receptors. However, conflicting data, showing similar open probabilities, exist for receptors expressed in neurons. Similarly, studies of synaptic plasticity have produced divergent results, with some showing that only NR2A-containing receptors can drive long-term potentiation and others showing that either subtype is capable of driving potentiation. In order to address these conflicting results as well as open questions about the number and location of functional receptors in the synapse, we constructed a Monte Carlo model of glutamate release, diffusion, and binding to NMDA receptors and of receptor opening and closing as well as a model of the activation of calcium-calmodulin kinase II, an enzyme critical for induction of synaptic plasticity, by NMDA receptor-mediated calcium influx. Our results suggest that the conflicting data concerning receptor open probabilities can be resolved, with NR2A- and NR2B-containing receptors having very different opening probabilities. They also support the conclusion that receptors containing either subtype can drive long-term potentiation. We also are able to estimate the number of functional receptors at a synapse from experimental data. Finally, in our models, the opening of NR2B-containing receptors is highly dependent on the location of the receptor relative to the site of glutamate release whereas the opening of NR2A-containing receptors is not. These results help to clarify the previous findings and suggest future experiments to address open questions concerning NMDA receptor function.
Author Summary
Information processing in the brain is carried out by networks of neurons connected by synapses. Synapses can change strength, allowing these networks to adapt and learn, in a process known as synaptic plasticity. At a synapse, an electrical signal in one neuron is converted into a chemical signal, carried by a neurotransmitter, which is in turn converted into electrical and chemical signals in another neuron by specialized proteins called receptors. One such protein, the N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, is particularly important for plasticity, due to its ability to detect the voltage of the cell receiving the neurotransmitter signal and to the fact that it allows calcium, an important signaling molecule, to enter the cell. Here we use computational modeling to investigate the role of one part of the NMDA receptor: the NR2 subunit. The subunit has various forms, and which of these forms are present in the NMDA receptor can strongly affect the kinetics and other properties of the receptor. We show that, along with changing the kinetics of the receptor, changing the NR2 subunit affects the reliability of the receptor, its ability to respond to large stimuli, and its spatial response properties. These results have implications for synaptic transmission and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2563690  PMID: 18974824
11.  Long-term potentiation and the role of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors 
Brain Research  2015;1621:5-16.
N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are known for their role in the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP). Here we start by reviewing the early evidence for their role in LTP at CA1 synapses in the hippocampus. We then discuss more recent evidence that NMDAR dependent synaptic plasticity at these synapses can be separated into mechanistically distinct components. An initial phase of the synaptic potentiation, which is generally termed short-term potentiation (STP), decays in an activity-dependent manner and comprises two components that differ in their kinetics and NMDAR subtype dependence. The faster component involves activation of GluN2A and GluN2B subunits whereas the slower component involves activation of GluN2B and GluN2D subunits. The stable phase of potentiation, commonly referred to as LTP, requires activation of primarily triheteromeric NMDARs containing both GluN2A and GluN2B subunits. In new work, we compare STP with a rebound potentiation (RP) that is induced by NMDA application and conclude that they are different phenomena. We also report that NMDAR dependent long-term depression (NMDAR-LTD) is sensitive to a glycine site NMDAR antagonist. We conclude that NMDARs are not synonymous for either LTP or memory. Whilst important for the induction of LTP at many synapses in the CNS, not all forms of LTP require the activation of NMDARs. Furthermore, NMDARs mediate the induction of other forms of synaptic plasticity and are important for synaptic transmission. It is, therefore, not possible to equate NMDARs with LTP though they are intimately linked.
This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Brain and Memory.
•NMDARs confer important properties to the induction of LTP.•STP comprises two components with different kinetics and NMDAR subtype dependence.•GluN2A and GluN2B subunit containing NMDARs are responsible for the induction of LTP.•NMDA-induced potentiation is distinct from STP and LTP.•A specific glycine-site NMDAR antagonist blocks the induction of LTD.
PMCID: PMC4563944  PMID: 25619552
N-methyl-d-aspartate, NMDA; N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors, NMDARs; Hippocampus; Long-term potentiation, LTP; Short-term potentiation, STP; Long-term depression, LTD
12.  Roles of the AMPA receptor subunit GluA1 but not GluA2 in synaptic potentiation and activation of ERK in the anterior cingulate cortex 
Molecular Pain  2009;5:46.
Cortical areas including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) are important for pain and pleasure. Recent studies using genetic and physiological approaches have demonstrated that the investigation of basic mechanism for long-term potentiation (LTP) in the ACC may reveal key cellular and molecular mechanisms for chronic pain in the cortex. Glutamate N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the ACC are critical for the induction of LTP, including both NR2A and NR2B subunits. However, cellular and molecular mechanisms for the expression of ACC LTP have been less investigated. Here, we report that the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor subunit, GluA1 but not GluA2 contributes to LTP in the ACC using genetic manipulated mice lacking GluA1 or GluA2 gene. Furthermore, GluA1 knockout mice showed decreased extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation in the ACC in inflammatory pain models in vivo. Our results demonstrate that AMPA receptor subunit GluA1 is a key mechanism for the expression of ACC LTP and inflammation-induced long-term plastic changes in the ACC.
PMCID: PMC2734546  PMID: 19664265
13.  Neurotransmitter Roles in Synaptic Modulation, Plasticity and Learning in the Dorsal Striatum 
Neuropharmacology  2010;58(7):951-961.
The dorsal striatum is a large forebrain region involved in action initiation, timing, control, learning and memory. Learning and remembering skilled movement sequences requires the dorsal striatum, and striatal subregions participate in both goal-directed (action-outcome) and habitual (stimulus-response) learning. Modulation of synaptic transmission plays a large part in controlling input to as well as the output from striatal medium spiny projection neurons (MSNs). Synapses in this brain region are subject to short-term modulation, including allosteric alterations in ion channel function and prominent presynaptic inhibition. Two forms of long-term synaptic plasticity have also been observed in striatum, long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). LTP at glutamatergic synapses onto MSNs involves activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors and D1 dopamine or A2A adenosine receptors. Expression of LTP appears to involve postsynaptic mechanisms. LTD at glutamatergic synapses involves retrograde endocannabinoid signaling stimulated by activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) and D2 dopamine receptors. While postsynaptic mechanisms participate in LTD induction, maintained expression involves presynaptic mechanisms. A similar form of LTD has also been observed at GABAergic synapses onto MSNs. Studies have just begun to examine the roles of synaptic plasticity in striatal-based learning. Findings to date indicate that molecules implicated in induction of plasticity participate in these forms of learning. Neurotransmitter receptors involved in LTP induction are necessary for proper skill and goal-directed instrumental learning. Interestingly, receptors involved in LTP and LTD at glutamatergic synapses onto MSNs of the “indirect pathway” appear to have important roles in habit learning. More work is needed to reveal if and when synaptic plasticity occurs during learning and if so what molecules and cellular processes, both short- and long-term, contribute to this plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2849868  PMID: 20096294
Long-term plasticity; Dopamine; Glutamate; Endocannabinoid; Instrumental learning; Skill Learning
14.  Enhanced synaptic long-term potentiation in the anterior cingulate cortex of adult wild mice as compared with that in laboratory mice 
Molecular Brain  2009;2:11.
Activation of N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is important for learning, memory and persistent pain. Genetic enhancement of NMDA receptor function by overexpressing NR2B subunit significantly enhances hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), behavioral learning as well as persistent pain. Recent studies found that NMDA NR2B subunits can undergo long-term upregulation in the brain under certain conditions including peripheral injury and environmental enrichment. Considering the fact that laboratory grown animals live in an artificial comfort environment, we wondered if NMDA receptor functions and its related LTP would differ in animals living in a natural wild environment. In this report we performed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from both laboratory wild-type mice and wild mice from a natural environment. We found that LTP was significantly enhanced in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the wild mice as compared with that of laboratory mice. In parallel, NMDA receptor NR2B/total NMDA receptor mediated EPSC ratio was significantly increased in slices of wild mice. Our findings provide the first evidence that NMDA NR2B receptors play an important role in experience-dependent synaptic potentiation within the ACC in wild mice as previously reported in laboratory mice.
PMCID: PMC2694782  PMID: 19445686
15.  Facilitation of AMPA Receptor Synaptic Delivery as a Molecular Mechanism for Cognitive Enhancement 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(2):e1001262.
A small peptide from a neuronal cell adhesion molecule enhances synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and results in improved cognitive performance in rats.
Cell adhesion molecules and downstream growth factor-dependent signaling are critical for brain development and synaptic plasticity, and they have been linked to cognitive function in adult animals. We have previously developed a mimetic peptide (FGL) from the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) that enhances spatial learning and memory in rats. We have now investigated the cellular and molecular basis of this cognitive enhancement, using biochemical, morphological, electrophysiological, and behavioral analyses. We have found that FGL triggers a long-lasting enhancement of synaptic transmission in hippocampal CA1 neurons. This effect is mediated by a facilitated synaptic delivery of AMPA receptors, which is accompanied by enhanced NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP). Both LTP and cognitive enhancement are mediated by an initial PKC activation, which is followed by persistent CaMKII activation. These results provide a mechanistic link between facilitation of AMPA receptor synaptic delivery and improved hippocampal-dependent learning, induced by a pharmacological cognitive enhancer.
Author Summary
The human brain contains trillions of neuronal connections, called synapses, whose pattern of activity controls all our cognitive functions. These synaptic connections are dynamic and constantly changing in their strength and properties, and this process of synaptic plasticity is essential for learning and memory. Alterations in synaptic plasticity mechanisms are thought to be responsible for multiple cognitive deficits, such as autism, Alzheimer's disease, and several forms of mental retardation. In this study, we show that synapses can be made more plastic using a small protein fragment (peptide) derived from a neuronal protein involved in cell-to-cell communication. This peptide (FGL) initiates a cascade of events inside the neuron that results in the facilitation of synaptic plasticity. Specifically, we find that FGL triggers delivery of a specific type of glutamate receptor (AMPA receptors) to synapses in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is known to be involved in multiple forms of learning and memory. Importantly, when this peptide was administered to rats, their ability to learn and retain spatial information was enhanced. Therefore, this work demonstrates that cognitive function can be improved pharmacologically in adult animals by enhancing the plasticity of synaptic connections in the brain.
PMCID: PMC3283560  PMID: 22363206
16.  Hippocampal synaptic plasticity: role in spatial learning or the automatic recording of attended experience? 
Allocentric spatial learning can sometimes occur in one trial. The incorporation of information into a spatial representation may, therefore, obey a one-trial correlational learning rule rather than a multi-trial error-correcting rule. It has been suggested that physiological implementation of such a rule could be mediated by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus, as its induction obeys a correlational type of synaptic learning rule. Support for this idea came originally from the finding that intracerebral infusion of the NMDA antagonist AP5 impairs spatial learning, but studies summarized in the first part of this paper have called it into question. First, rats previously given experience of spatial learning in a watermaze can learn a new spatial reference memory task at a normal rate despite an appreciable NMDA receptor blockade. Second, the classical phenomenon of 'blocking' occurs in spatial learning. The latter finding implies that spatial learning can also be sensitive to an animal's expectations about reward and so depend on more than the detection of simple spatial correlations. In this paper a new hypothesis is proposed about the function of hippocampal LTP. This hypothesis retains the idea that LTP subserves rapid one-trial memory, but abandons the notion that it serves any specific role in the geometric aspects of spatial learning. It is suggested that LTP participates in the automatic recording of attended experience': a subsystem of episodic memory in which events are temporarily remembered in association with the contexts in which they occur. An automatic correlational form of synaptic plasticity is ideally suited to the online registration of context event associations. In support, it is reported that the ability of rats to remember the most recent place they have visited in a familiar environment is exquisitely sensitive to AP5 in a delay-dependent manner. Moreover, new studies of the lasting persistence of NMDA-dependent LTP, known to require protein synthesis, point to intracellular mechanisms that enable transient synaptic changes to be stabilized if they occur in close temporal proximity to important events. This new property of hippocampal LTP is a desirable characteristic of an event memory system.
PMCID: PMC1692060  PMID: 9368938
17.  H-Ras Modulates N-Methyl-d-aspartate Receptor Function via Inhibition of Src Tyrosine Kinase Activity* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2003;278(26):23823-23829.
Tyrosine phosphorylation of the NR2A and NR2B subunits of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor by Src protein-tyrosine kinases modulates receptor channel activity and is necessary for the induction of long term potentiation (LTP). Deletion of H-Ras increases both NR2 tyrosine phosphorylation and NMDA receptor-mediated hippocampal LTP. Here we investigated whether H-Ras regulates phosphorylation and function of the NMDA receptor via Src family protein-tyrosine kinases. We identified Src as a novel H-Ras binding partner. H-Ras bound to Src but not Fyn both in vitro and in brain via the Src kinase domain. Cotransfection of H-Ras and Src inhibited Src activity and decreased NR2A tyrosine phosphorylation. Treatment of rat brain slices with Tat-H-Ras depleted NR2A from the synaptic membrane, decreased endogenous Src activity and NR2A phosphorylation, and decreased the magnitude of hip-pocampal LTP. No change was observed for NR2B. We suggest that H-Ras negatively regulates Src phosphorylation of NR2A and retention of NR2A into the synaptic membrane leading to inhibition of NMDA receptor function. This mechanism is specific for Src and NR2A and has implications for studies in which regulation of NMDA receptor-mediated LTP is important, such as synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory and addiction.
PMCID: PMC1196389  PMID: 12695509
18.  A Kinetic Model of Dopamine- and Calcium-Dependent Striatal Synaptic Plasticity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(2):e1000670.
Corticostriatal synapse plasticity of medium spiny neurons is regulated by glutamate input from the cortex and dopamine input from the substantia nigra. While cortical stimulation alone results in long-term depression (LTD), the combination with dopamine switches LTD to long-term potentiation (LTP), which is known as dopamine-dependent plasticity. LTP is also induced by cortical stimulation in magnesium-free solution, which leads to massive calcium influx through NMDA-type receptors and is regarded as calcium-dependent plasticity. Signaling cascades in the corticostriatal spines are currently under investigation. However, because of the existence of multiple excitatory and inhibitory pathways with loops, the mechanisms regulating the two types of plasticity remain poorly understood. A signaling pathway model of spines that express D1-type dopamine receptors was constructed to analyze the dynamic mechanisms of dopamine- and calcium-dependent plasticity. The model incorporated all major signaling molecules, including dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein with a molecular weight of 32 kDa (DARPP32), as well as AMPA receptor trafficking in the post-synaptic membrane. Simulations with dopamine and calcium inputs reproduced dopamine- and calcium-dependent plasticity. Further in silico experiments revealed that the positive feedback loop consisted of protein kinase A (PKA), protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), and the phosphorylation site at threonine 75 of DARPP-32 (Thr75) served as the major switch for inducing LTD and LTP. Calcium input modulated this loop through the PP2B (phosphatase 2B)-CK1 (casein kinase 1)-Cdk5 (cyclin-dependent kinase 5)-Thr75 pathway and PP2A, whereas calcium and dopamine input activated the loop via PKA activation by cyclic AMP (cAMP). The positive feedback loop displayed robust bi-stable responses following changes in the reaction parameters. Increased basal dopamine levels disrupted this dopamine-dependent plasticity. The present model elucidated the mechanisms involved in bidirectional regulation of corticostriatal synapses and will allow for further exploration into causes and therapies for dysfunctions such as drug addiction.
Author Summary
Recent brain imaging and neurophysiological studies suggest that the striatum, the start of the basal ganglia circuit, plays a major role in value-based decision making and behavioral disorders such as drug addiction. The plasticity of synaptic input from the cerebral cortex to output neurons of the striatum, which are medium spiny neurons, depends on interactions between glutamate input from the cortex and dopaminergic input from the midbrain. It also links sensory and cognitive states in the cortex with reward-oriented action outputs. The mechanisms involved in molecular cascades that transmit glutamate and dopamine inputs to changes in postsynaptic glutamate receptors are very complex and it is difficult to intuitively understand the mechanism. Therefore, a biochemical network model was constructed, and computer simulations were performed. The model reproduced dopamine-dependent and calcium-dependent forms of long-term depression (LTD) and potentiation (LTP) of corticostriatal synapses. Further in silico experiments revealed that a positive feedback loop formed by proteins, the protein specifically expressed in the striatum, served as the major switch for inducing LTD and LTP. This model could allow us to understand dynamic constraints in reward-dependent learning, as well as causes and therapies of dopamine-related disorders such as drug addiction.
PMCID: PMC2820521  PMID: 20169176
19.  Incorporation of inwardly rectifying AMPA receptors at silent synapses during hippocampal long-term potentiation 
Despite decades of study, the mechanisms by which synapses express the increase in strength during long-term potentiation (LTP) remain an area of intense interest. Here, we have studied how AMPA receptor subunit composition changes during the early phases of hippocampal LTP in CA1 pyramidal neurons. We studied LTP at silent synapses that initially lack AMPA receptors, but contain NMDA receptors. We show that strongly inwardly rectifying AMPA receptors are initially incorporated at silent synapses during LTP and are then subsequently replaced by non-rectifying AMPA receptors. These findings suggest that silent synapses initially incorporate GluA2-lacking, calcium-permeable AMPA receptors during LTP that are then replaced by GluA2-containing calcium-impermeable receptors. We also show that LTP consolidation at CA1 synapses requires a rise in intracellular calcium concentration during the early phase of expression, indicating that calcium influx through the GluA2-lacking AMPA receptors drives their replacement by GluA2-containing receptors during LTP consolidation. Taken together with previous studies in hippocampus and in other brain regions, these findings suggest that a common mechanism for the expression of activity-dependent glutamatergic synaptic plasticity involves the regulation of GluA2-subunit composition and highlights a critical role for silent synapses in this process.
PMCID: PMC3843887  PMID: 24298157
glutamate; synaptic plasticity; hippocampus
20.  Characterization of the anoxia-induced long-term synaptic potentiation in area CA1 of the rat hippocampus 
British Journal of Pharmacology  1997;122(4):671-681.
The purpose of the present study was to characterize the mechanisms underlying the anoxia-induced long-term potentiation (LTP) of glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the CA1 region of rat hippocampus by use of intracellular recordings in vitro.In response to superfusion of an anoxic medium equilibrated with 95% N2–5% CO2, the initial slope (measured within 3 ms from the onset of the synaptic response) of the excitatory postsynaptic potential (e.p.s.p.) generated in the hippocampal CA1 neurones by stimulation of Schaffer collateral-commissural afferent pathway was significantly decreased by 91.3±4.9% (n=10) within 10 min of the anoxic episode. The reduction of the initial slope of the e.p.s.p. was accompanied by a transient membrane hyperpolarization followed by a sustained depolarization (10.8±1.7 mV, n=10), along with a reduction in membrane input resistance (69.3±4.8% of control, n=10). On return to reoxygenated medium, the e.p.s.p. slope returned to the control value within 8–10 min and was subsequently and progessively potentiated to reach a plateau (195.6±14.7% of control, n=10) 15–20 min after return to control ACSF. This anoxic episode-induced persistent potentiation of synaptic transmission lasted for more than 1 h and was termed anoxic LTP.The anoxic episode induced a persistent potentiation of the initial slopes of both pharmacologically isolated α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazola-propionate (AMPA) receptor-mediated e.p.s.p. (e.p.s.p.AMPA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated e.p.s.p. (e.p.s.p.NMDA) with a similar time course and magnitude. The sensitivity of postsynaptic neurones to NMDA (10 μM), but not to AMPA (10 μM) was also persistently potentiated following the anoxic episode. In addition, the anoxia-induced LTP of the initial slope of e.p.s.p.AMPA was accompanied by a decrease in the magnitude of paired-pulse facilitation (PPF; from 106.8±17.6 to 46.6±18.4%, n=6), a phenomenon which was associated with presynaptic transmitter release mechanisms.The induction of the anoxic LTP is dependent on the extracellular Ca2+ concentration. The induction of the anoxic LTP was completely abolished when the external Ca2+ was removed and substituted with equimolar Mg2+. Moreover, the anoxic LTP was completely abolished in neurones intracellularly recorded with Ca2+ chelator bis-(O-aminophenoxy)-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid (BAPTA, 500 mM).Occlusion experiments were performed to examine whether the sustained enhancement of the initial slope of the e.p.s.p. produced by tetanic stimulation and the anoxic episode share common cellular mechanisms. Three episodes of tetanic stimulation were delivered to saturate the LTP, following which a long period (15 min) of anoxia failed to cause a further potentiation of the initial slope of the e.p.s.p. Similarly, prior induction of anoxic LTP also significantly attenuated the subsequent synaptic potentiation induced by a high-frequency tetanic stimulation (100 Hz for 1 s duration). These data imply that these two forms of synaptic plasticity may share a common cellular mechanism.These results provide strong evidence that the generation of the anoxia-induced LTP of glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the CA1 region of rat hippocampus probably involves both of the presynaptic and postsynaptic loci. The mechanisms underlying the persistent potentiation are likely to be attributable to an enhancement of presynaptic glutamate release and a selective upregulation of postsynaptic NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic response through the Ca2+-dependent processes.
PMCID: PMC1564972  PMID: 9375963
Anoxia-induced long-term potentiation (anoxic LTP); N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA receptor); non-NMDA receptor; long-term potentiation (LTP); paired-pulse facilitation (PPF); hippocampus
21.  Development of schemas revealed by prior experience and NMDA receptor knock-out 
eLife  2013;2:e01326.
Prior experience accelerates acquisition of novel, related information through processes like assimilation into mental schemas, but the underlying neuronal mechanisms are poorly understood. We investigated the roles that prior experience and hippocampal CA3 N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity play in CA1 place cell sequence encoding and learning during novel spatial experiences. We found that specific representations of de novo experiences on linear environments were formed on a framework of pre configured network activity expressed in the preceding sleep and were rapidly, flexibly adjusted via NMDAR-dependent activity. This prior experience accelerated encoding of subsequent experiences on contiguous or isolated novel tracks, significantly decreasing their NMDAR-dependence. Similarly, de novo learning of an alternation task was facilitated by CA3 NMDARs; this experience accelerated subsequent learning of related tasks, independent of CA3 NMDARs, consistent with a schema-based learning. These results reveal the existence of distinct neuronal encoding schemes which could explain why hippocampal dysfunction results in anterograde amnesia while sparing recollection of old, schema-based memories.
eLife digest
Learning is an inherent feature of the living animals. During development and childhood we learn a large repertoire of items that we encounter for the first time in our life, such as the names of things and how to perform certain tasks. This de novo learning process takes a relatively long time and generally requires repeated exposures to the particular features of the external world that are being learned. Later in life, when we are exposed to novel but related features, we acquire this new information much faster. For instance, if a child learns to associate various odors with various locations around the home—such as associating the smell of bread with the kitchen and the smell air freshener with the bathroom—they will find it easier to make new odor-place associations outside the home, such as associating gasoline with gas stations.
It is thought that the de novo learning process is achieved when the newly acquired information is being consolidated and transferred into long-term memory storage within networks of neurons in the brain. The process of consolidation is believed to lead to the formation of mental schemas that can accelerate learning of novel but related information. Although the concepts of mental schema and related learning are widely used in psychology and education, their underlying neuronal mechanisms are poorly understood.
The formation of new memories depends on a part of the brain called the hippocampus and involves changes in the strength of the connectivity between groups of neurons in a process called synaptic plasticity. In particular, the interaction between a chemical called glutamate, which is released by sender neurons, and proteins called NMDA receptors (which bind the glutamate molecules) on receiver neurons have a central role in synaptic plasticity. Recently, based on experiments with rodents, it has been proposed that the hippocampus is also crucial for the formation of the mental schemas that can accelerate the learning of new spatial association tasks, such as the odor-place associations described above.
Now, Dragoi and Tonegawa reveal that the NMDA receptor in a key subregion of the hippocampus is also involved in the de novo learning of spatial tasks. Using repeated exposures to novel spatial experiences and genetic techniques to block the NMDA receptors in this subregion in mice, Dragoi and Tonegawa discovered that de novo learning involves synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and, possibly, other regions of the brain. This de novo learning, in turn, enables subsequent spatial learning to be accelerated, even when the NMDA receptors are absent. These results reveal that de novo learning, and related learning processes such as accelerated learning, are underpinned by a number of different mechanisms in the brain, which could help explain why damage to the hippocampus prevents the formation of new memories while preserving other forms of memory and learning.
PMCID: PMC3851680  PMID: 24327561
learning and memory; NMDA; hippocampus; cellular assemblies; schemas; Mouse
22.  Growth hormone modulates hippocampal excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity in old rats 
Neurobiology of Aging  2011;33(9):1938-1949.
Alterations in the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA-R) receptor and N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) have been documented in aged animals and may contribute to changes in hippocampal-dependent memory. Growth Hormone (GH) regulates AMPA-R and NMDA-R-dependent excitatory transmission and decreases with age. Chronic GH treatment mitigates age-related cognitive decline. An in vitro CA1 hippocampal slice preparation was used to compare hippocampal excitatory transmission and plasticity in old animals treated for 6–8 months with either saline or GH. Our findings indicate that GH treatment restores NMDA-R dependent basal synaptic transmission in old rats to young adult levels and enhances both AMPA-R-dependent basal synaptic transmission and long-term potentiation. These alterations in synaptic function occurred in the absence of changes in presynaptic function, as measured by paired-pulse ratios, the total protein levels of AMPA-R and NMDA-R subunits or in plasma or hippocampal levels of insulin-like growth factor-I. These data suggest a direct role for GH in altering age-related changes in excitatory transmission and provide a possible cellular mechanism through which GH changes the course of cognitive decline.
PMCID: PMC3266474  PMID: 22015312
Long-term potentiation; paired-pulse ratios; input-output curves; AMPA receptor; NMDA receptor
23.  Electrophysiological Characterization of AMPA and NMDA Receptors in Rat Dorsal Striatum 
The striatum receives glutamatergic afferents from the cortex and thalamus, and these synaptic transmissions are mediated by α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. The purpose of this study was to characterize glutamate receptors by analyzing NMDA/AMPA ratio and rectification of AMPA and NMDA excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) using a whole-cell voltage-clamp method in the dorsal striatum. Receptor antagonists were used to isolate receptor or subunit specific EPSC, such as (DL)-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV), an NMDA receptor antagonist, ifenprodil, an NR2B antagonist, CNQX, an AMPA receptor antagonist and IEM-1460, a GluR2-lacking AMPA receptor blocker. AMPA and NMDA EPSCs were recorded at -70 and +40 mV, respectively. Rectification index was calculated by current ratio of EPSCs between +50 and -50 mV. NMDA/AMPA ratio was 0.20±0.05, AMPA receptor ratio of GluR2-lacking/GluR2-containing subunit was 0.26±0.05 and NMDA receptor ratio of NR2B/NR2A subunit was 0.32±0.03. The rectification index (control 2.39±0.27) was decreased in the presence of both APV and combination of APV and IEM-1460 (1.02±0.11 and 0.93±0.09, respectively). These results suggest that the major components of the striatal glutamate receptors are GluR2-containing AMPA receptors and NR2A-containing NMDA receptors. Our results may provide useful information for corticostriatal synaptic transmission and plasticity studies.
PMCID: PMC2766737  PMID: 19885039
Striatum; AMPA; Glutamate receptor; NMDA; Patch clamp
24.  Caldendrin–Jacob: A Protein Liaison That Couples NMDA Receptor Signalling to the Nucleus 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(2):e34.
NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors and calcium can exert multiple and very divergent effects within neuronal cells, thereby impacting opposing occurrences such as synaptic plasticity and neuronal degeneration. The neuronal Ca2+ sensor Caldendrin is a postsynaptic density component with high similarity to calmodulin. Jacob, a recently identified Caldendrin binding partner, is a novel protein abundantly expressed in limbic brain and cerebral cortex. Strictly depending upon activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors, Jacob is recruited to neuronal nuclei, resulting in a rapid stripping of synaptic contacts and in a drastically altered morphology of the dendritic tree. Jacob's nuclear trafficking from distal dendrites crucially requires the classical Importin pathway. Caldendrin binds to Jacob's nuclear localization signal in a Ca2+-dependent manner, thereby controlling Jacob's extranuclear localization by competing with the binding of Importin-α to Jacob's nuclear localization signal. This competition requires sustained synapto-dendritic Ca2+ levels, which presumably cannot be achieved by activation of extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, but are confined to Ca2+ microdomains such as postsynaptic spines. Extrasynaptic NMDA receptors, as opposed to their synaptic counterparts, trigger the cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) shut-off pathway, and cell death. We found that nuclear knockdown of Jacob prevents CREB shut-off after extrasynaptic NMDA receptor activation, whereas its nuclear overexpression induces CREB shut-off without NMDA receptor stimulation. Importantly, nuclear knockdown of Jacob attenuates NMDA-induced loss of synaptic contacts, and neuronal degeneration. This defines a novel mechanism of synapse-to-nucleus communication via a synaptic Ca2+-sensor protein, which links the activity of NMDA receptors to nuclear signalling events involved in modelling synapto-dendritic input and NMDA receptor–induced cellular degeneration.
Author Summary
Long-lasting changes in communication between nerve cells require the regulation of gene expression. The influx of calcium ions into the cell, particularly through membrane protein called NMDA receptors, plays a crucial role in this process by determining the type of gene expression induced. NMDA receptors can exert multiple and very divergent effects within neuronal cells by impacting opposing phenomena such as synaptic plasticity and neuronal degeneration. We identified a protein termed Jacob that appears to play a pivotal role in such processes by entering the nucleus in response to NMDA receptor activation and controlling gene expression that governs cell survival and the stability of synaptic cell contacts. Removal of Jacob from the nucleus protects neurons from NMDA receptor–induced cell death and increases phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB, whereas the opposite occurs after targeting Jacob exclusively to the nucleus. The work defines a novel pathway of synapse-to-nucleus communication involved in modelling synapto-dendritic input and NMDA receptor–induced cellular degeneration.
A new signaling mechanism from NMDA receptors to the nucleus plays an important role in the phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB and neuronal cell survival.
PMCID: PMC2253627  PMID: 18303947
25.  Repeated third trimester-equivalent ethanol exposure inhibits long-term potentiation in the hippocampal CA1 region of neonatal rats 
Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)  2010;44(3):283-290.
Developmental ethanol exposure damages the hippocampus, causing long-lasting learning and memory deficits. Synaptic plasticity mechanisms (e.g. long-term potentiation—LTP), contribute to synapse formation and refinement during development. We recently showed that acute ethanol exposure inhibits glutamatergic synaptic transmission and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-dependent LTP in the CA1 hippocampal region of postnatal day (P) 7–9 rats. The objective of this study was to further characterize the effect ethanol on LTP in the developing CA1 hippocampus during the third trimester-equivalent. To more closely model human ethanol exposure during this period, rat pups were exposed to ethanol vapor (2 or 4.5 g/dL in air; serum ethanol concentrations = 96.6 – 147.2 or 322 – 395.6 mg/dL) from P2–9 (4 hrs/day). Brain slices were prepared immediately after the end of the 4-hr exposure on P7–9 and extracellular electrophysiological recordings were performed 1–7 hrs later under ethanol-free conditions to model early withdrawal. LTP was not different than group-matched controls in the 96.6 – 147.2 mg/dL group; however, it was impaired in the 322 – 395.6 mg/dL group. Neither α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA)/NMDA receptor function nor glutamate release was affected in the 322 – 395.6 mg/dL ethanol exposure group. These data suggest that repeated in vivo exposure to elevated ethanol doses during the third trimester-equivalent period impairs synaptic plasticity, which may alter maturation of hippocampal circuits and ultimately contributeto the long-lasting cognitive deficits associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
PMCID: PMC2916030  PMID: 20488644
Fetal alcohol syndrome; development; plasticity; glutamate; synaptic

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