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1.  Dopamine-enabled anti-Hebbian timing-dependent plasticity in prefrontal circuitry 
Spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) of glutamatergic synapses is a Hebbian associative plasticity that may underlie certain forms of learning. A cardinal feature of STDP is its dependence on the temporal order of presynaptic and postsynaptic spikes during induction: pre–post (positive) pairings induce t-LTP (timing-dependent long-term potentiation) whereas post–pre (negative) pairings induce t-LTD (timing-dependent long-term depression). Dopamine (DA), a reward signal for behavioral learning, is believed to exert powerful modulations on synapse strength and plasticity, but its influence on STDP has remained incompletely understood. We previously showed that DA extends the temporal window of t-LTP in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) from +10 to +30 ms, gating Hebbian t-LTP. Here, we examined DA modulation of synaptic plasticity induced at negative timings in layer V pyramidal neurons on mouse medial PFC slices. Using a negative timing STDP protocol (60 post–pre pairings at 0.1 Hz, δt = -30 ms), we found that DA applied during post–pre pairings did not produce LTD, but instead enabled robust LTP. This anti-Hebbian t-LTP depended on GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors. Blocking D1- (D1Rs), but not D2- (D2Rs) class DA receptors or disrupting cAMP/PKA signaling in pyramidal neurons also abolished this atypical t-LTP, indicating that it was mediated by postsynaptic D1R-cAMP/PKA signaling in excitatory synapses. Unlike DA-enabled Hebbian t-LTP that requires suppression of GABAergic inhibition and cooperative actions of both D1Rs and D2Rs in separate PFC excitatory and inhibitory circuits, DA-enabled anti-Hebbian t-LTP occurred under intact inhibitory transmission and only required D1R activation in excitatory circuit. Our results establish DA as a potent modulator of coincidence detection during associative synaptic plasticity and suggest a mechanism by which DA facilitates input-target association during reward learning and top-down information processing in PFC circuits.
doi:10.3389/fncir.2014.00038
PMCID: PMC4005942  PMID: 24795571
STDP; Hebbian; dopamine; glutamate; reward; learning
2.  Two Coincidence Detectors for Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity in Somatosensory Cortex 
Many cortical synapses exhibit spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) in which the precise timing of presynaptic and postsynaptic spikes induces synaptic strengthening [long-term potentiation (LTP)] or weakening [long-term depression (LTD)]. Standard models posit a single, postsynaptic, NMDA receptor-based coincidence detector for LTP and LTD components of STDP. We show instead that STDP at layer 4 to layer 2/3 synapses in somatosensory (S1) cortex involves separate calcium sources and coincidence detection mechanisms for LTP and LTD. LTP showed classical NMDA receptor dependence. LTD was independent of postsynaptic NMDA receptors and instead required group I metabotropic glutamate receptors and calcium from voltage-sensitive channels and IP3 receptor-gated stores. Downstream of postsynaptic calcium, LTD required retrograde endocannabinoid signaling, leading to presynaptic LTD expression, and also required activation of apparently presynaptic NMDA receptors. These LTP and LTD mechanisms detected firing coincidence on ~25 and ~125 ms time scales, respectively, and combined to implement the overall STDP rule. These findings indicate that STDP is not a unitary process and suggest that endocannabinoid-dependent LTD may be relevant to cortical map plasticity.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0176-06.2006
PMCID: PMC3071735  PMID: 16624937
LTP; LTD; synaptic plasticity; endocannabinoid; barrel; metabotropic glutamate receptor
3.  Preynaptic induction and expression of t-LTD demonstrated by compartment-specific photorelease of a use-dependent NMDA receptor antagonist 
N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are important for synaptic plasticity, including long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). In order to help investigate the precise location of the NMDA receptors that are required for different types of synaptic plasticity, we synthesized a caged form of the use-dependent NMDA receptor antagonist, MK801, which we loaded into individual neurons in vitro, followed by compartment-specific uncaging. To demonstrate the potential of this new method, we investigated timing-dependent plasticity at layer 4-layer 2/3 synapses of mouse barrel cortex. Somatodendritic photorelease of MK801 in the postsynaptic neuron produced a use-dependent block of synaptic NMDA receptor-mediated currents and prevented the induction of LTP. Compartment-specific photorelease of MK801 in the presynaptic neuron showed that axonal, but not somatodendritic, presynaptic NMDA receptors are required for induction of LTD. The rate of use-dependent block of postsynaptic NMDA receptor current was slower following induction of LTD, consistent with a presynaptic locus of expression. Thus, this new caged compound has demonstrated the axonal location of NMDA receptors required for induction and the presynaptic locus of expression of LTD at layer 4-layer 2/3 synapses.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0274-11.2011
PMCID: PMC4299820  PMID: 21653860
Mouse; barrel cortex; LTD; NMDA; MK801; photolysis
4.  Distinct mechanisms of spike timing‐dependent LTD at vertical and horizontal inputs onto L2/3 pyramidal neurons in mouse barrel cortex 
Physiological Reports  2014;2(3):e00271.
Abstract
Spike timing‐dependent plasticity (STDP) is an attractive candidate to mediate the synaptic changes that support circuit plasticity in sensory cortices during development. STDP is prevalent at excitatory synapses, but it is not known whether the underlying mechanisms are universal, or whether distinct mechanisms underpin STDP at different synapses. Here, we set out to compare and contrast STDP at vertical layer 4 and horizontal layer 2/3 inputs onto postsynaptic layer 2/3 neurons in the mouse barrel cortex. We find that both vertical and horizontal inputs show STDP, but that they display different time windows for induction of timing‐dependent long‐term depression (t‐LTD). Moreover, whereas t‐LTD at vertical inputs requires presynaptic NMDA receptors and is expressed presynaptically, using paired recordings we find that t‐LTD at horizontal inputs requires postsynaptic NMDA receptors and is expressed postsynaptically. These results demonstrate that similar forms of plasticity on the same postsynaptic neuron can be mediated by distinct mechanisms, and suggest that these forms of plasticity may enable these two types of cortical synapses to support different functions.
Timing‐dependent LTD (t‐LTD) at vertical inputs on layer 2/3 neurons (L4‐L2/3) requires presynaptic NMDA receptors and is expressed presynaptically, but little is known about these mechanisms at horizontal inputs (L2/3‐L2/3). Using paired recordings we demonstrate here that t‐LTD at L2/3‐L2/3 synapses also requires NMDA receptors but is induced and expressed postsynaptically. These results indicate that similar forms of plasticity on the same postsynaptic neuron may be mediated by distinct mechanisms and suggest that these forms of plasticity may support different developmental functions in the cortex.
doi:10.1002/phy2.271
PMCID: PMC4002250  PMID: 24760524
LTD; LTP; mouse; somatosensory cortex; STDP
5.  The Effects of NMDA Subunit Composition on Calcium Influx and Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity in Striatal Medium Spiny Neurons 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(4):e1002493.
Calcium through NMDA receptors (NMDARs) is necessary for the long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic strength; however, NMDARs differ in several properties that can influence the amount of calcium influx into the spine. These properties, such as sensitivity to magnesium block and conductance decay kinetics, change the receptor's response to spike timing dependent plasticity (STDP) protocols, and thereby shape synaptic integration and information processing. This study investigates the role of GluN2 subunit differences on spine calcium concentration during several STDP protocols in a model of a striatal medium spiny projection neuron (MSPN). The multi-compartment, multi-channel model exhibits firing frequency, spike width, and latency to first spike similar to current clamp data from mouse dorsal striatum MSPN. We find that NMDAR-mediated calcium is dependent on GluN2 subunit type, action potential timing, duration of somatic depolarization, and number of action potentials. Furthermore, the model demonstrates that in MSPNs, GluN2A and GluN2B control which STDP intervals allow for substantial calcium elevation in spines. The model predicts that blocking GluN2B subunits would modulate the range of intervals that cause long term potentiation. We confirmed this prediction experimentally, demonstrating that blocking GluN2B in the striatum, narrows the range of STDP intervals that cause long term potentiation. This ability of the GluN2 subunit to modulate the shape of the STDP curve could underlie the role that GluN2 subunits play in learning and development.
Author Summary
The striatum of the basal ganglia plays a key role in fluent motor control; pathology in this structure causes the motor symptoms of Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Chorea. A putative cellular mechanism underlying learning of motor control is synaptic plasticity, which is an activity dependent change in synaptic strength. A known mediator of synaptic potentiation is calcium influx through the NMDA-type glutamate receptor. The NMDA receptor is sensitive to the timing of neuronal activity, allowing calcium influx only when glutamate release and a post-synaptic depolarization coincide temporally. The NMDA receptor is comprised of specific subunits that modify its sensitivity to neuronal activity and these subunits are altered in animal models of Parkinson's disease. Here we use a multi-compartmental model of a striatal neuron to investigate the effect of different NMDA subunits on calcium influx through the NMDA receptor. Simulations show that the subunit composition changes the temporal intervals that allow coincidence detection and strong calcium influx. Our experiments manipulating the dominate subunit in brain slices show that the subunit effect on calcium influx predicted by our computational model is mirrored by a change in the amount of potentiation that occurs in our experimental preparation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002493
PMCID: PMC3334887  PMID: 22536151
6.  Presynaptic Self-Depression at Developing Neocortical Synapses 
Neuron  2013;77(1):35-42.
Summary
A central tenet of most theories of synaptic modification during cortical development is that correlated activity drives plasticity in synaptically connected neurons. Unexpectedly, however, using sensory-evoked activity patterns recorded from the developing mouse cortex in vivo, the synaptic learning rule that we uncover here relies solely on the presynaptic neuron. A burst of three presynaptic spikes followed, within a restricted time window, by a single presynaptic spike induces robust long-term depression (LTD) at developing layer 4 to layer 2/3 synapses. This presynaptic spike pattern-dependent LTD (p-LTD) can be induced by individual presynaptic layer 4 cells, requires presynaptic NMDA receptors and calcineurin, and is expressed presynaptically. However, in contrast to spike timing-dependent LTD, p-LTD is independent of postsynaptic and astroglial signaling. This spike pattern-dependent learning rule complements timing-based rules and is likely to play a role in the pruning of synaptic input during cortical development.
Highlights
► Natural spike patterns in layer 4 neurons induce LTD at downstream synapses ► Spike pattern-dependent LTD can be induced in individual presynaptic neurons ► Spike pattern-dependent LTD requires presynaptic NMDA receptors and calcineurin ► Spike pattern-dependent LTD is independent of postsynaptic and astroglial signaling
Using natural spike patterns recorded from cortical layer 4 neurons in vivo, Rodríguez-Moreno et al. uncover a new spike pattern-dependent synaptic learning rule. They find that individual presynaptic neurons can drive NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic depression without a requirement for postsynaptic activity.
doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.035
PMCID: PMC3542421  PMID: 23312514
7.  Loss of GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors in CA1 hippocampus and cortex impairs long-term depression, reduces dendritic spine density and disrupts learning 
N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are key mediators of certain forms of synaptic plasticity and learning. NMDAR complexes are heteromers composed of an obligatory GluN1 subunit and one or more GluN2 (GluN2A- GluN2D) subunits. Different subunits confer distinct physiological and molecular properties to NMDARs, but their contribution to synaptic plasticity and learning in the adult brain remains uncertain. Here, we generated mice lacking GluN2B in pyramidal neurons of cortex and CA1 subregion of hippocampus. We found that hippocampal principal neurons of adult GluN2B mutants had faster decaying NMDAR-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) than non-mutant controls, and were insensitive to GluN2B but not NMDAR antagonism. A sub-saturating form of hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) was impaired in the mutants, whereas a saturating form of LTP was intact. A NMDAR-dependent form of long-term depression (LTD) produced by low-frequency stimulation combined with glutamate transporter inhibition was abolished in the mutants. Additionally, mutants exhibited decreased dendritic spine density in CA1 hippocampal neurons as compared to controls. On multiple assays for corticohippocampal-mediated learning and memory (hidden platform Morris water maze, T-maze spontaneous alternation, Pavlovian trace fear conditioning), mutants were impaired. These data further demonstrate the importance of GluN2B for synaptic plasticity in the adult hippocampus and suggest a particularly critical role in LTD, at least the form studied here. The finding that loss of GluN2B was sufficient to cause learning deficits illustrates the contribution of GluN2B-mediated forms of plasticity to memory formation, with implications for elucidating NMDAR-related dysfunction in disease-related cognitive impairment.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0640-10.2010
PMCID: PMC2869199  PMID: 20357110
LTP; LTD; fear; hippocampus; cortex; mice
8.  Mg2+ block properties of triheteromeric GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D NMDA receptors on neonatal rat substantia nigra pars compacta dopaminergic neurones 
The Journal of Physiology  2014;592(10):2059-2078.
Native NMDA receptors (NMDARs) are tetrameric channels formed by two GluN1 and two GluN2 subunits. So far, seven NMDARs subunits have been identified and they can form diheteromeric or triheteromeric NMDARs (more than one type of GluN2 subunit). Extracellular Mg2+ is an important regulator of NMDARs, and particularly the voltage dependence of Mg2+ block is crucial to the roles of NMDARs in synaptic plasticity and the integration of synaptic activity with neuronal activity. Although the Mg2+ block properties of diheteromeric NMDARs are fully investigated, properties of triheteromeric NMDARs are still not clear. Our previous data suggested that dopaminergic neurones expressed triheteromeric GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D NMDARs. Here, using NMDARs in dopaminergic neurones from postnatal day 7 (P7) rats as a model system, we characterize the voltage-dependent Mg2+ block properties of triheteromeric NMDARs. In control conditions, external Mg2+ significantly inhibits the whole cell NMDA-evoked current in a voltage-dependent manner with IC50 values of 20.9 μm, 53.3 μm and 173 μm at −90 mV, −70 mV and −50 mV, respectively. When the GluN2B-selective antagonist ifenprodil was applied, the Mg2+ sensitivity of the residual NMDA-mediated currents (which is mainly carried by GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D NMDARs) is reduced to IC50 values of 45.9 μm (−90 mV), 104 μm (−70 mV) and 276 μm (−50 mV), suggesting that triheteromeric GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D NMDARs have less affinity for external Mg2+ than GluN1–GluN2B receptors. In addition, fitting INMDA–V curves with a trapping Mg2+ block model shows the triheteromeric GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D NMDARs have weaker voltage-dependent Mg2+ block (δ = 0.56) than GluN1–GluN2B NMDARs. Finally, our concentration jump and single channel recordings suggest that GluN1–GluN2B–GluN2D rather than GluN1–GluN2D NMDARs are present. These data provide information relevant to Mg2+ block characteristics of triheteromeric NMDARs and may help to better understand synaptic plasticity, which is dependent on these triheteromeric NMDARs.
doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2013.267864
PMCID: PMC4027860  PMID: 24614743
9.  Purkinje cell NMDA receptors assume a key role in synaptic gain control in the mature cerebellum 
A classic view in cerebellar physiology holds that Purkinje cells do not express functional N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and that, therefore, postsynaptic NMDA receptors are not involved in the induction of long-term depression (LTD) at parallel fiber (PF) to Purkinje cell synapses. Recently, it has been demonstrated that functional NMDA receptors are postsynaptically expressed at climbing fiber (CF) to Purkinje cell synapses in mice, reaching full expression levels at about 2 months after birth. Here, we show that in the mature mouse cerebellum LTD (induced by paired PF and CF activation), but not long-term potentiation (LTP; PF stimulation alone) at PF to Purkinje cell synapses is blocked by bath application of the NMDA receptor antagonist D-APV. A blockade of LTD, but not LTP, was also observed when the non-competitive NMDA channel blocker MK-801 was added to the patch-pipette saline, suggesting that postsynaptically expressed NMDA receptors are required for LTD induction. Using confocal calcium imaging, we show that CF-evoked calcium transients in dendritic spines are reduced in the presence of D-APV. This observation confirms that NMDA receptor signaling occurs at CF synapses, and suggests that NMDA receptor-mediated calcium transients at the CF input site might contribute to LTD induction. Finally, we performed dendritic patch-clamp recordings from rat Purkinje cells. Dendritically recorded CF responses were reduced when D-APV was bath-applied. Together, these data suggest that the late developmental expression of postsynaptic NMDA receptors at CF synapses onto Purkinje cells is associated with a switch towards an NMDA receptor-dependent LTD induction mechanism.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4344-10.2010
PMCID: PMC2990192  PMID: 21068337
calcium; climbing fiber; long-term depression; long-term potentiation; parallel fiber; synaptic plasticity
10.  Slice orientation and muscarinic acetylcholine receptor activation determine the involvement of N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subunit GluN2B in hippocampal area CA1 long-term depression 
Molecular Brain  2011;4:41.
Background
The contribution of different GluN2 subunits of the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor to the induction of bidirectional hippocampal synaptic plasticity is a controversial topic. As both supporting and refuting evidence for the hypothesis of subunit specialization in opposing directions of plasticity has accumulated since it was first proposed a few years ago, we hypothesize that differences in experimental conditions may have in part contributed to some of the inconsistent results from these studies. Here we investigate the controversial hypothesis that long-term depression (LTD) is preferentially induced by GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors in area CA1 of hippocampal slices.
Results
We find that brain slices from 2-3 week old rats prepared in the sagittal orientation have GluN2B-independent LTD whereas slices prepared in the coronal orientation have GluN2B-dependent LTD. There was no difference between the orientations in the fraction of the NMDAR EPSC sensitive to a GluN2B-selective antagonist, leading us to believe that the intracellular signaling properties of the NMDARs were different in the two preparations. Coronal slices had greater association of LTD-related intracellular signaling protein RasGRF1 with GluN2B relative to sagittal slices. Antagonism of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) in the sagittal slices returned LTD to a GluN2B-dependent form and increased the association of GluN2B with RasGRF1.
Conclusions
These results suggest a novel form of NMDAR modulation by mAChRs and clarify some disagreement in the literature.
doi:10.1186/1756-6606-4-41
PMCID: PMC3226435  PMID: 22082088
Hippocampus; Long-term depression; N-methyl D-Aspartate receptor; muscarinic acetylcholine receptor
11.  Forebrain glutamatergic neurons mediate leptin action on depression-like behaviors and synaptic depression 
Guo, M | Lu, Y | Garza, J C | Li, Y | Chua, S C | Zhang, W | Lu, B | Lu, X-Y
Translational Psychiatry  2012;2(2):e83-.
The glutamatergic system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressants. Leptin, an adipocyte-derived hormone, has antidepressant-like properties. However, the functional role of leptin receptor (Lepr) signaling in glutamatergic neurons remains to be elucidated. In this study, we generated conditional knockout mice in which the long form of Lepr was ablated selectively in glutamatergic neurons located in the forebrain structures, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (Lepr cKO). Lepr cKO mice exhibit normal growth and body weight. Behavioral characterization of Lepr cKO mice reveals depression-like behavioral deficits, including anhedonia, behavioral despair, enhanced learned helplessness and social withdrawal, with no evident signs of anxiety. In addition, loss of Lepr in forebrain glutamatergic neurons facilitates N-methyl--aspartate (NMDA)-induced hippocampal long-term synaptic depression (LTD), whereas conventional LTD or long-term potentiation (LTP) was not affected. The facilitated LTD induction requires activation of the NMDA receptor GluN2B (NR2B) subunit as it was completely blocked by a selective GluN2B antagonist. Moreover, Lepr cKO mice are highly sensitive to the antidepressant-like behavioral effects of the GluN2B antagonist but resistant to leptin. These results support important roles for Lepr signaling in glutamatergic neurons in regulating depression-related behaviors and modulating excitatory synaptic strength, suggesting a possible association between synaptic depression and behavioral manifestation of behavioral depression.
doi:10.1038/tp.2012.9
PMCID: PMC3298113  PMID: 22408745
behavioral depression; GluN2B subunit; glutamatergic neurons; leptin receptor; NMDA receptors; synaptic depression
12.  Gating of NMDA receptor-mediated hippocampal spike timing-dependent potentiation by mGluR5 
Neuropharmacology  2012;63(4):701-709.
Hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) is believed to be important for learning and memory. Experimentally, the pairing of precisely timed pre- and postsynaptic spikes within a time window of ∼10 ms can induce timing-dependent LTP (tLTP), but the requirements for induction of tLTP change with development: in young rodents single postsynaptic spikes are sufficient to induce tLTP, whereas postsynaptic burst firing appears to be required in the adult. However, hippocampal neurons in vivo show theta-modulated single spike activities also in older hippocampus. Here we investigated the conditions for single spike pairing to induce tLTP at older CA3–CA1 synapses. We found that the pairing of single pre- and postsynaptic spikes could induce tLTP in older hippocampus when the postsynaptic neuronal membrane was depolarized and the pairing frequency exceeded ∼4 Hz. The spike frequency requirement is postsynaptic, as tLTP could still be induced with presynaptic stimulation at 1 Hz as long as the postsynaptic spike frequency exceeded ∼4 Hz, suggesting that postsynaptic theta-frequency activity is required for the successful induction of tLTP at older CA3–CA1 synapses. The induction of tLTP was blocked by an NMDA receptor antagonist and by the selective mGluR5 blockers, MPEP and MTEP, whereas activation of mGluR1 and mGluR5 by DHPG relieved the postsynaptic spike frequency requirement for tLTP induction. These results suggest that activation of mGluR5 during single-spike pairing at older CA3–CA1 synapses gates NMDA receptor-dependent tLTP.
Highlights
► Single-spike pairing can induce tLTP at older hippocampal CA3–CA1 synapses. ► tLTP induction requires postsynaptic depolarization and postsynaptic spike rate >4 Hz. ► tLTP induction requires NMDA receptors and is gated by mGluR5.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.05.021
PMCID: PMC3396853  PMID: 22652057
Hippocampus; mGluR5; Spike timing-dependent plasticity; CA1; Development; Rat
13.  Synaptic Neurotransmission Depression in Ventral Tegmental Dopamine Neurons and Cannabinoid-Associated Addictive Learning 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15634.
Drug addiction is an association of compulsive drug use with long-term associative learning/memory. Multiple forms of learning/memory are primarily subserved by activity- or experience-dependent synaptic long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). Recent studies suggest LTP expression in locally activated glutamate synapses onto dopamine neurons (local Glu-DA synapses) of the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) following a single or chronic exposure to many drugs of abuse, whereas a single exposure to cannabinoid did not significantly affect synaptic plasticity at these synapses. It is unknown whether chronic exposure of cannabis (marijuana or cannabinoids), the most commonly used illicit drug worldwide, induce LTP or LTD at these synapses. More importantly, whether such alterations in VTA synaptic plasticity causatively contribute to drug addictive behavior has not previously been addressed. Here we show in rats that chronic cannabinoid exposure activates VTA cannabinoid CB1 receptors to induce transient neurotransmission depression at VTA local Glu-DA synapses through activation of NMDA receptors and subsequent endocytosis of AMPA receptor GluR2 subunits. A GluR2-derived peptide blocks cannabinoid-induced VTA synaptic depression and conditioned place preference, i.e., learning to associate drug exposure with environmental cues. These data not only provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic depression at VTA dopamine circuitry requires GluR2 endocytosis, but also suggest an essential contribution of such synaptic depression to cannabinoid-associated addictive learning, in addition to pointing to novel pharmacological strategies for the treatment of cannabis addiction.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015634
PMCID: PMC3004941  PMID: 21187978
14.  Forebrain glutamatergic neurons mediate leptin action on depression-like behaviors and synaptic depression 
The glutamatergic system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of depression and the mechanism of action of antidepressants. Leptin, an adipocyte-derived hormone, has antidepressant-like properties. However, the functional role of leptin receptor (Lepr) signaling in glutamatergic neurons remains to be elucidated. In this study, we generated conditional knockout mice in which the long form of Lepr was ablated selectively in glutamatergic neurons located in the forebrain structures, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (Lepr cKO). Lepr cKO mice exhibit normal growth and body weight. Behavioral characterization of Lepr cKO mice reveals depression-like behavioral deficits, including anhedonia, behavioral despair, enhanced learned helplessness and social withdrawal, with no evident signs of anxiety. In addition, loss of Lepr in forebrain glutamatergic neurons facilitates NMDA-induced hippocampal long-term synaptic depression (LTD), whereas conventional LTD or long-term potentiation (LTP) was not affected. The facilitated LTD induction requires activation of the GluN2B subunit as it was completely blocked by a selective GluN2B antagonist. Moreover, Lepr cKO mice are highly sensitive to the antidepressant-like behavioral effects of the GluN2B antagonist but resistant to leptin. These results support important roles for Lepr signaling in glutamatergic neurons in regulating depression-related behaviors and modulating excitatory synaptic strength, suggesting a possible association between synaptic depression and behavioral manifestations of depression.
PMCID: PMC3298113  PMID: 22408745
Leptin receptor; Glutamatergic neurons; Behavioral depression; NR2B; Synaptic depression
15.  NMDA receptors and BAX are essential for Aβ impairment of LTP 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:225.
Accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder in which synapse loss and dysfunction are early features. Acute exposure of hippocampal slices to Aβ leads to changes in synaptic plasticity, specifically reduced long-term potentiation (LTP) and enhanced long-term depression (LTD), with no change in basal synaptic transmission. We also report here that D-AP5, a non-selective NMDA receptor antagonist, completely prevented Aβ-mediated inhibition of LTP in area CA1 of the hippocampus. Ro25-6981, an antagonist selective for GluN2B (NR2B) NMDA receptors, only partially prevented this Aβ action, suggesting that GluN2A and GluN2B receptors may both contribute to Aβ suppression of LTP. The effect of Aβ on LTP was also examined in hippocampal slices from BAX −/− mice and wild-type littermates. Aβ failed to block LTP in hippocampal slices from BAX −/− mice, indicating that BAX is essential for Aβ inhibition of LTP.
doi:10.1038/srep00225
PMCID: PMC3258533  PMID: 22355739
16.  Questions about STDP as a General Model of Synaptic Plasticity 
According to spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), the timing of the Na+ spike relative to the EPSP determines whether LTP or LTD will occur. Here, we review our reservations about STDP. Most investigations of this process have been done under conditions in which the spike is evoked by postsynaptic current injection. Under more realistic conditions, in which the spike is evoked by the EPSP, the results do not generally support STDP. For instance, low-frequency stimulation of a group of synapses can cause LTD, not the LTP predicted by the pre-before-post sequence in STDP; this is true regardless of whether or not the EPSP is large enough to produce a Na+ spike. With stronger or more frequent stimulation, LTP can be induced by the same pre-before-post timing, but in this case block of Na+ spikes does not necessarily prevent LTP induction. Thus, Na+ spikes may facilitate LTP and/or LTD under some conditions, but they are not necessary, a finding consistent with their small size relative to the EPSP in many parts of pyramidal cell dendrites. The nature of the dendritic depolarizing events that control bidirectional plasticity is of central importance to understanding neural function. There are several candidates, including backpropagating action potentials, but also dendritic Ca2+ spikes, the AMPA receptor-mediated EPSP, and NMDA receptor-mediated EPSPs or spikes. These often appear to be more important than the Na+ spike in providing the depolarization necessary for plasticity. We thus feel that it is premature to accept STDP-like processes as the major determinant of LTP/LTD.
doi:10.3389/fnsyn.2010.00140
PMCID: PMC3059684  PMID: 21423526
Ca spike; Na spike; NMDA; LTP; LTD
17.  Direct pharmacological monitoring of the developmental switch in NMDA receptor subunit composition using TCN 213, a GluN2A-selective, glycine-dependent antagonist 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;166(3):924-937.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit expression have been inferred from studies of GluN2 expression levels, changes in kinetics of glutamatergic synaptic currents and sensitivity of NMDA receptor-mediated currents to selective GluN2B antagonists. Here we use TCN 213, a novel GluN2A-selective antagonist to identify the presence of this subunit in functional NMDA receptors in developing cortical neurones.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
Two-electrode voltage-clamp (TEVC) recordings were made from Xenopus laevis oocytes to determine the pharmacological activity of TCN 213 at recombinant NMDA receptors. TCN 213 antagonism was studied in cultures of primary cortical neurones, assessing the NMDA receptor dependency of NMDA-induced excitotoxicity and monitoring developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit composition.
KEY RESULTS
TCN 213 antagonism of GluN1/GluN2A NMDA receptors was dependent on glycine but independent of glutamate concentrations in external recording solutions. Antagonism by TCN 213 was surmountable and gave a Schild plot with unity slope. TCN 213 block of GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptor-mediated currents was negligible. In cortical neurones, at a early developmental stage predominantly expressing GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors, TCN 213 failed to antagonize NMDA receptor-mediated currents or to prevent GluN2B-dependent, NMDA-induced excitoxicity. In older cultures (DIV 14) or in neurones transfected with GluN2A subunits, TCN 213 antagonized NMDA-evoked currents. Block by TCN 213 of NMDA currents inversely correlated with block by ifenprodil, a selective GluN2B antagonist.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
TCN 213 selectively blocked GluN1/GluN2A over GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptors allowing direct dissection of functional NMDA receptors and pharmacological profiling of developmental changes in native NMDA receptor subunit composition.
doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01748.x
PMCID: PMC3417419  PMID: 22022974
NMDA; glutamate; glycine; antagonism; oocyte; two-electrode voltage clamp; electrophysiology; neurotoxicity; development
18.  Direct pharmacological monitoring of the developmental switch in NMDA receptor subunit composition using TCN 213, a GluN2A-selective, glycine-dependent antagonist 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2012;166(3):924-937.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE
Developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit expression have been inferred from studies of GluN2 expression levels, changes in kinetics of glutamatergic synaptic currents and sensitivity of NMDA receptor-mediated currents to selective GluN2B antagonists. Here we use TCN 213, a novel GluN2A-selective antagonist to identify the presence of this subunit in functional NMDA receptors in developing cortical neurones.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH
Two-electrode voltage-clamp (TEVC) recordings were made from Xenopus laevis oocytes to determine the pharmacological activity of TCN 213 at recombinant NMDA receptors. TCN 213 antagonism was studied in cultures of primary cortical neurones, assessing the NMDA receptor dependency of NMDA-induced excitotoxicity and monitoring developmental switches in NMDA receptor subunit composition.
KEY RESULTS
TCN 213 antagonism of GluN1/GluN2A NMDA receptors was dependent on glycine but independent of glutamate concentrations in external recording solutions. Antagonism by TCN 213 was surmountable and gave a Schild plot with unity slope. TCN 213 block of GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptor-mediated currents was negligible. In cortical neurones, at a early developmental stage predominantly expressing GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors, TCN 213 failed to antagonize NMDA receptor-mediated currents or to prevent GluN2B-dependent, NMDA-induced excitoxicity. In older cultures (DIV 14) or in neurones transfected with GluN2A subunits, TCN 213 antagonized NMDA-evoked currents. Block by TCN 213 of NMDA currents inversely correlated with block by ifenprodil, a selective GluN2B antagonist.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
TCN 213 selectively blocked GluN1/GluN2A over GluN1/GluN2B NMDA receptors allowing direct dissection of functional NMDA receptors and pharmacological profiling of developmental changes in native NMDA receptor subunit composition.
doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01748.x
PMCID: PMC3417419  PMID: 22022974
NMDA; glutamate; glycine; antagonism; oocyte; two-electrode voltage clamp; electrophysiology; neurotoxicity; development
19.  NMDA Receptor Subunits in the Adult Rat Hippocampus Undergo Similar Changes after 5 Minutes in an Open Field and after LTP Induction 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55244.
NMDA receptor subunits change during development and their synaptic expression is modified rapidly after synaptic plasticity induction in hippocampal slices. However, there is scarce information on subunits expression after synaptic plasticity induction or memory acquisition, particularly in adults. GluN1, GluN2A and GluN2B NMDA receptor subunits were assessed by western blot in 1) adult rats that had explored an open field (OF) for 5 minutes, a time sufficient to induce habituation, 2) mature rat hippocampal neuron cultures depolarized by KCl and 3) hippocampal slices from adult rats where long term potentiation (LTP) was induced by theta-burst stimulation (TBS). GluN1 and GluN2A, though not GluN2B, were significantly higher 70 minutes –but not 30 minutes- after a 5 minutes session in an OF. GluN1 and GluN2A total immunofluorescence and puncta in neurites increased in cultures, as evaluated 70 minutes after KCl stimulation. Similar changes were found in hippocampal slices 70 minutes after LTP induction. To start to explore underlying mechanisms, hippocampal slices were treated either with cycloheximide (a translation inhibitor) or actinomycin D (a transcription inhibitor) during electrophysiological assays. It was corroborated that translation was necessary for LTP induction and expression. The rise in GluN1 depends on transcription and translation, while the increase in GluN2A appears to mainly depend on translation, though a contribution of some remaining transcriptional activity during actinomycin D treatment could not be rouled out. LTP effective induction was required for the subunits to increase. Although in the three models same subunits suffered modifications in the same direction, within an apparently similar temporal course, further investigation is required to reveal if they are related processes and to find out whether they are causally related with synaptic plasticity, learning and memory.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055244
PMCID: PMC3562335  PMID: 23383317
20.  GluN2A and GluN2B subunit-containing NMDA receptors in hippocampal plasticity 
N-Methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity is a strong candidate to mediate learning and memory processes that require the hippocampus. This plasticity is bidirectional, and how the same receptor can mediate opposite changes in synaptic weights remains a conundrum. It has been suggested that the NMDAR subunit composition could be involved. Specifically, one subunit composition of NMDARs would be responsible for the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP), whereas NMDARs with a different subunit composition would be engaged in the induction of long-term depression (LTD). Unfortunately, the results from studies that have investigated this hypothesis are contradictory, particularly in relation to LTD. Nevertheless, current evidence does suggest that the GluN2B subunit might be particularly important for plasticity and may make a synapse bidirectionally malleable. In particular, we conclude that the presence of GluN2B subunit-containing NMDARs at the postsynaptic density might be a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for the strengthening of individual synapses. This is owing to the interaction of GluN2B with calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and is distinct from its contribution as an ion channel.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2013.0163
PMCID: PMC3843894  PMID: 24298164
NMDA receptor subunit; hippocampus; plasticity; learning
21.  Activation of Synaptic Group II Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors Induces Long-Term Depression at GABAergic Synapses in CNS Neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2013;33(40):15964-15977.
Metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)-dependent homosynaptic long-term depression (LTD) has been studied extensively at glutamatergic synapses in the CNS. However, much less is known about heterosynaptic long-term plasticity induced by mGluRs at inhibitory synapses. Here we report that pharmacological or synaptic activation of group II mGluRs (mGluR II) induces LTD at GABAergic synapses without affecting the excitatory glutamatergic transmission in neurons of the chicken cochlear nucleus. Coefficient of variation and failure rate analysis suggested that the LTD was expressed presynaptically. The LTD requires presynaptic spike activity, but does not require the activation of NMDA receptors. The classic cAMP-dependent protein kinase A signaling is involved in the transduction pathway. Remarkably, blocking mGluR II increased spontaneous GABA release, indicating the presence of tonic activation of mGluR II by ambient glutamate. Furthermore, synaptically released glutamate induced by electrical stimulations that concurrently activated both the glutamatergic and GABAergic pathways resulted in significant and constant suppression of GABA release at various stimulus frequencies (3.3, 100, and 300 Hz). Strikingly, low-frequency stimulation (1 Hz, 15 min) of the glutamatergic synapses induced heterosynaptic LTD of GABAergic transmission, and the LTD was blocked by mGluR II antagonist, indicating that synaptic activation of mGluR II induced the LTD. This novel form of long-term plasticity in the avian auditory brainstem may play a role in the development as well as in temporal processing in the sound localization circuit.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0202-13.2013
PMCID: PMC3787505  PMID: 24089501
22.  Modulatory role of androgenic and estrogenic neurosteroids in determining the direction of synaptic plasticity in the CA1 hippocampal region of male rats 
Physiological Reports  2013;1(7):e00185.
Abstract
Estrogenic and androgenic neurosteroids can rapidly modulate synaptic plasticity in the brain through interaction with membrane receptors for estrogens (ERs) and androgens (ARs). We used electrophysiological recordings in slices of young and adolescent male rats to explore the influence of sex neurosteroids on synaptic plasticity in the CA1 hippocampal region, by blocking ARs or ERs during induction of long‐term depression (LTD) and depotentiation (DP) by low‐frequency stimulation (LFS) and long‐term potentiation (LTP) by high‐frequency stimulation (HFS). We found that LTD and DP depend on ARs, while LTP on ERs in both age groups. Accordingly, the AR blocker flutamide affected induction of LTD reverting it into LTP, and prevented DP, while having no effect on HFS‐dependent LTP. Conversely, ER blockade with ICI 182,780 (ICI) markedly reduced LTP, but did not influence LTD and DP. However, the receptor blockade did not affect the maintenance of either LTD or LTP. Moreover, we found that similar to LTP and LTD induced in control condition, the LTP unveiled by flutamide during LFS and residual LTP induced by HFS under ICI depended on N‐methyl‐d aspartate receptor (NMDAR) activation. Furthermore, as the synaptic paired‐pulse facilitation (PPF) was not affected by either AR or ER blockade, we suggest that sex neurosteroids act primarily at a postsynaptic level. This study demonstrates for the first time the crucial role of estrogenic and androgenic neurosteroids in determining the sign of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in male rat and the activity‐dependent recruitment of androgenic and estrogenic pathways leading to LTD and LTP, respectively.
This study shows a crucial and opposite role of estrogenic and androgenic neurosteroids in guiding the direction of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus CA1 region of male rat, through activation of their specific receptors. In fact, by using selective antagonists for estrogen receptors (ICI 182,730) or androgen receptors (flutamide), we show that long‐term potentiation (LTP) induced by high‐frequency stimulation (HFS) depends on estrogenic signals, while long‐term depression (LTD) and depotentiation induced by low‐frequency stimulation (LFS) require activation of androgenic pathway. We suggest that different stimulation frequencies may lead to LTD or LTP depending on activation of specific neurosteroid pathway.
doi:10.1002/phy2.185
PMCID: PMC3970743  PMID: 24744863
Androgen receptors; estrogen receptors; hippocampus; long‐term depression; long‐term potentiation; sex neurosteroids
23.  GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors regulate depression-like behavior and are critical for the rapid antidepressant actions of ketamine 
eLife  null;3:e03581.
A single, low dose of the NMDA receptor antagonist ketamine produces rapid antidepressant actions in treatment-resistant depressed patients. Understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying this will lead to new therapies for treating major depression. NMDARs are heteromultimeric complexes formed through association of two GluN1 and two GluN2 subunits. We show that in vivo deletion of GluN2B, only from principal cortical neurons, mimics and occludes ketamine's actions on depression-like behavior and excitatory synaptic transmission. Furthermore, ketamine-induced increases in mTOR activation and synaptic protein synthesis were mimicked and occluded in 2BΔCtx mice. We show here that cortical GluN2B-containing NMDARs are uniquely activated by ambient glutamate to regulate levels of excitatory synaptic transmission. Together these data predict a novel cellular mechanism that explains ketamine's rapid antidepressant actions. In this model, basal glutamatergic neurotransmission sensed by cortical GluN2B-containing NMDARs regulates excitatory synaptic strength in PFC determining basal levels of depression-like behavior.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03581.001
eLife digest
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with hundreds of millions of people living with the condition. The ‘gold standard’ for depression treatment involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Unfortunately, current antidepressant medications do not help everyone, waiting lists for psychotherapy are often long, and both normally take a number of weeks of regular treatment before they begin to have an effect. As patients are often at a high risk of suicide, it is crucial that treatments that act more quickly, and that are safe and effective, are developed.
One substance that may fulfill these requirements is a drug called ketamine. Studies have shown that depression symptoms can be reduced within hours by a single low dose of ketamine, and this effect on mood can last for more than a week. However, progress has been hindered by a lack of knowledge about what ketamine actually does inside the brain.
Neurons communicate with one another by releasing chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which transfer information by binding to receptor proteins on the surface of other neurons. Drugs such as ketamine also bind to these receptors. Ketamine works by blocking a specific receptor called the n-methyl d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, but how this produces antidepressant effects is not fully understood.
The NMDA receptor is actually formed from a combination of individual protein subunits, including one called GluN2B. Now Miller, Yang et al. have created mice that lack receptors containing these GluN2B subunits in neurons in their neocortex, including the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in complex mental processes such as decision-making. This allowed Miller, Yang et al. to discover that when the neurotransmitter glutamate binds to GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors, it limits the production of certain proteins that make it easier for signals to be transmitted between neurons. Suppressing the synthesis of these proteins too much may cause depressive effects by reducing communication between the neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
Both mice lacking GluN2B-containing receptors in their cortical neurons and normal mice treated with ketamine showed a reduced amount of depressive-like behavior. This evidence supports Miller, Yang et al.'s theory that by blocking these NMDA receptors, ketamine restricts their activation. This restores normal levels of protein synthesis, improves communication between neurons in the cortex, and reduces depression.
Understanding how ketamine works to alleviate depression is an important step towards developing it into a safe and effective treatment. Further research is also required to determine the conditions that cause overactivation of the GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03581.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.03581
PMCID: PMC4270067  PMID: 25340958
depression; cortex; synapse; ketamine; electrophysiology; protein synthesis; mouse; rat
24.  NMDA receptor subunit composition determines the polarity of leptin-induced synaptic plasticity 
Neuropharmacology  2011;61(5-6):924-936.
Leptin is a hormone that crosses the blood-brain barrier and regulates numerous CNS functions. The hippocampus in particular is an important site for leptin action. Indeed, leptin markedly influences excitatory synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity in this brain region. Recent studies indicate that leptin modulation of hippocampal excitatory synaptic transmission is age-dependent however the cellular basis for this is unclear. Here we show that early in development leptin evokes a transient (P11-18) or persistent (P5-8) depression of synaptic transmission, whereas leptin evokes a long lasting increase (LTP) in synaptic strength in adulthood. The synaptic depressions induced by leptin required activation of NMDA receptor GluN2B subunits and the ERK signalling cascade. Conversely, leptin-induced LTP in adult was mediated by GluN2A subunits and involved PI 3-kinase dependent signalling. In addition, low-frequency stimulus (LFS)-evoked LTD occluded the persistent effects of leptin at P5-8 and vice versa. Similarly, synaptically-induced LTP occluded the persistent increase in synaptic transmission induced by leptin, indicating that similar expression mechanisms underlie leptin-induced LTD and LFS-induced LTD at P5-8, and leptin-induced LTP and HFS-induced LTP in adult. These findings have important implications for the role of leptin in hippocampal synaptic function during early neuronal development and in aging.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.06.021
PMCID: PMC3300059  PMID: 21752339
Leptin; synaptic transmission; NMDA receptor; synaptic plasticity; PI 3-kinase; MAPK
25.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2010.01.008
PMCID: PMC2849868  PMID: 20096294
Long-term plasticity; Dopamine; Glutamate; Endocannabinoid; Instrumental learning; Skill Learning

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