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1.  Juvenile methylphenidate reduces prefrontal cortex plasticity via D3 receptor and BDNF in adulthood 
Background: Early drug intervention in childhood disorders aims to maximize individual potential in the short- and long-term. Consistently, juvenile exposure to psychostimulants, such as methylphenidate (MPH), reduces risk for substance use in animals and sub-populations of individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We investigated the effects of MPH on brain plasticity via dopamine receptor D3 (D3R) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in developing rats.
Methods: Between postnatal days 20–35, rat pups were administered saline vehicle (Veh) or MPH (2 mg/kg), the D3R-preferring agonist ±7-OHDPAT, or the antagonist nafadotride (0.05 mg/kg) alone, or in combination with MPH twice a day. In adulthood, subjects were challenged to Veh or cocaine (10 mg/kg for two days). The prefrontal cortex was analyzed for protein and mRNA levels of total BDNF, its splice variants I, IIc, III/IV, and IV/VI, and D3 receptors. A separate group of subjects was assessed for splice variants at 20, 35, 40, and 60 days of age.
Results: Across age strong correlations were evident between Drd3 and Bdnf mRNA levels (r = 0.65) and a negative relationship between Drd3 and exon IIc after MPH treatment (r = −0.73). BDNF protein levels did not differ between Veh- and MPH subjects at baseline, but were significantly lower in MPH-treated and cocaine challenged subjects (30.3 ± 9.7%). Bdnf mRNA was significantly higher in MPH-treated subjects, and reversed upon exposure to cocaine. This effect was blocked by nafadotride. Furthermore, Bdnftotal and Bdnf splice variants I, IIc, III/IV, and IV/VI changed across the transitions between juvenility and late adolescence.
Conclusions: These data suggest a sensitive window of vulnerability to modulation of BDNF expression around adolescence, and that compared to normal animals, juvenile exposure to MPH permanently reduces prefrontal BDNF transcription and translation upon cocaine exposure in adulthood by a D3R-mediated mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3896878  PMID: 24478696
ADHD; adolescence; child; methylphenidate; ritalin; sensitive period
2.  Enhanced synaptic transmission at the squid giant synapse by artificial seawater based on physically modified saline 
Superfusion of the squid giant synapse with artificial seawater (ASW) based on isotonic saline containing oxygen nanobubbles (RNS60 ASW) generates an enhancement of synaptic transmission. This was determined by examining the postsynaptic response to single and repetitive presynaptic spike activation, spontaneous transmitter release, and presynaptic voltage clamp studies. In the presence of RNS60 ASW single presynaptic stimulation elicited larger postsynaptic potentials (PSP) and more robust recovery from high frequency stimulation than in control ASW. Analysis of postsynaptic noise revealed an increase in spontaneous transmitter release with modified noise kinetics in RNS60 ASW. Presynaptic voltage clamp demonstrated an increased EPSP, without an increase in presynaptic ICa++ amplitude during RNS60 ASW superfusion. Synaptic release enhancement reached stable maxima within 5–10 min of RNS60 ASW superfusion and was maintained for the entire recording time, up to 1 h. Electronmicroscopic morphometry indicated a decrease in synaptic vesicle density and the number at active zones with an increase in the number of clathrin-coated vesicles (CCV) and large endosome-like vesicles near junctional sites. Block of mitochondrial ATP synthesis by presynaptic injection of oligomycin reduced spontaneous release and prevented the synaptic noise increase seen in RNS60 ASW. After ATP block the number of vesicles at the active zone and CCV was reduced, with an increase in large vesicles. The possibility that RNS60 ASW acts by increasing mitochondrial ATP synthesis was tested by direct determination of ATP levels in both presynaptic and postsynaptic structures. This was implemented using luciferin/luciferase photon emission, which demonstrated a marked increase in ATP synthesis following RNS60 administration. It is concluded that RNS60 positively modulates synaptic transmission by up-regulating ATP synthesis, thus leading to synaptic transmission enhancement.
PMCID: PMC3921564  PMID: 24575037
neurotransmitter release; squid giant synapse; synaptic transmission optimization; physically modified water; calcium current
3.  A unifying theory of synaptic long-term plasticity based on a sparse distribution of synaptic strength 
Long-term synaptic plasticity is fundamental to learning and network function. It has been studied under various induction protocols and depends on firing rates, membrane voltage, and precise timing of action potentials. These protocols show different facets of a common underlying mechanism but they are mostly modeled as distinct phenomena. Here, we show that all of these different dependencies can be explained from a single computational principle. The objective is a sparse distribution of excitatory synaptic strength, which may help to reduce metabolic costs associated with synaptic transmission. Based on this objective we derive a stochastic gradient ascent learning rule which is of differential-Hebbian type. It is formulated in biophysical quantities and can be related to current mechanistic theories of synaptic plasticity. The learning rule accounts for experimental findings from all major induction protocols and explains a classic phenomenon of metaplasticity. Furthermore, our model predicts the existence of metaplasticity for spike-timing-dependent plasticity Thus, we provide a theory of long-term synaptic plasticity that unifies different induction protocols and provides a connection between functional and mechanistic levels of description.
PMCID: PMC3941589  PMID: 24624080
synaptic plasticity; sparseness; computational; STDP; metaplasticity
4.  The best-laid plans go oft awry: synaptogenic growth factor signaling in neuropsychiatric disease 
Growth factors play important roles in synapse formation. Mouse models of neuropsychiatric diseases suggest that defects in synaptogenic growth factors, their receptors, and signaling pathways can lead to disordered neural development and various behavioral phenotypes, including anxiety, memory problems, and social deficits. Genetic association studies in humans have found evidence for similar relationships between growth factor signaling pathways and neuropsychiatric phenotypes. Accumulating data suggest that dysfunction in neuronal circuitry, caused by defects in growth factor-mediated synapse formation, contributes to the susceptibility to multiple neuropsychiatric diseases, including epilepsy, autism, and disorders of thought and mood (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, respectively). In this review, we will focus on how specific synaptogenic growth factors and their downstream signaling pathways might be involved in the development of neuropsychiatric diseases.
PMCID: PMC3957327  PMID: 24672476
synapse; synaptogenesis; growth factor; psychiatry; mental illness
5.  The BDNF effects on dendritic spines of mature hippocampal neurons depend on neuronal activity 
The fine tuning of neural networks during development and learning relies upon both functional and structural plastic processes. Changes in the number as well as in the size and shape of dendritic spines are associated to long-term activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. However, the molecular mechanisms translating functional into structural changes are still largely unknown. In this context, neurotrophins, like Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), are among promising candidates. Specifically BDNF-TrkB receptor signaling is crucial for activity-dependent strengthening of synapses in different brain regions. BDNF application has been shown to positively modulate dendritic and spine architecture in cortical and hippocampal neurons as well as structural plasticity in vitro. However, a global BDNF deprivation throughout the central nervous system (CNS) resulted in very mild structural alterations of dendritic spines, questioning the relevance of the endogenous BDNF signaling in modulating the development and the mature structure of neurons in vivo. Here we show that a loss-of-function approach, blocking BDNF results in a significant reduction in dendritic spine density, associated with an increase in spine length and a decrease in head width. These changes are associated with a decrease in F-actin levels within spine heads. On the other hand, a gain-of-function approach, applying exogenous BDNF, could not reproduce the increase in spine density or the changes in spine morphology previously described. Taken together, we show here that the effects exerted by BDNF on the dendritic architecture of hippocampal neurons are dependent on the neuron's maturation stage. Indeed, in mature hippocampal neurons in vitro as shown in vivo BDNF is specifically required for the activity-dependent maintenance of the mature spine phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3960490  PMID: 24688467
dendrites; spines; structural plasticity; hippocampus; neurotrophins
6.  Homeostatic structural plasticity increases the efficiency of small-world networks 
In networks with small-world topology, which are characterized by a high clustering coefficient and a short characteristic path length, information can be transmitted efficiently and at relatively low costs. The brain is composed of small-world networks, and evolution may have optimized brain connectivity for efficient information processing. Despite many studies on the impact of topology on information processing in neuronal networks, little is known about the development of network topology and the emergence of efficient small-world networks. We investigated how a simple growth process that favors short-range connections over long-range connections in combination with a synapse formation rule that generates homeostasis in post-synaptic firing rates shapes neuronal network topology. Interestingly, we found that small-world networks benefited from homeostasis by an increase in efficiency, defined as the averaged inverse of the shortest paths through the network. Efficiency particularly increased as small-world networks approached the desired level of electrical activity. Ultimately, homeostatic small-world networks became almost as efficient as random networks. The increase in efficiency was caused by the emergent property of the homeostatic growth process that neurons started forming more long-range connections, albeit at a low rate, when their electrical activity was close to the homeostatic set-point. Although global network topology continued to change when neuronal activities were around the homeostatic equilibrium, the small-world property of the network was maintained over the entire course of development. Our results may help understand how complex systems such as the brain could set up an efficient network topology in a self-organizing manner. Insights from our work may also lead to novel techniques for constructing large-scale neuronal networks by self-organization.
PMCID: PMC3978244  PMID: 24744727
topology; development; neuronal network model; structural synaptic plasticity; homeostasis; small-world network; efficiency
7.  Postsynaptic localization of PSD-95 is regulated by all three pathways downstream of TrkB signaling 
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB regulate synaptic plasticity. TrkB triggers three downstream signaling pathways; Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), Phospholipase Cγ (PLCγ) and Mitogen activated protein kinases/Extracellular signal-regulated kinases (MAPK/ERK). We previously showed two distinct mechanisms whereby BDNF-TrkB pathway controls trafficking of PSD-95, which is the major scaffold at excitatory synapses and is critical for synapse maturation. BDNF activates the PI3K-Akt pathway and regulates synaptic delivery of PSD-95 via vesicular transport (Yoshii and Constantine-Paton, 2007). BDNF-TrkB signaling also triggers PSD-95 palmitoylation and its transport to synapses through the phosphorylation of the palmitoylation enzyme ZDHHC8 by a protein kinase C (PKC; Yoshii etal., 2011). The second study used PKC inhibitors chelerythrine as well as a synthetic zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) which was originally designed to block the brain-specific PKC isoform protein kinase Mϖ (PKMϖ). However, recent studies raise concerns about specificity of ZIP. Here, we assessed the contribution of TrkB and its three downstream pathways to the synaptic distribution of endogenous PSD-95 in cultured neurons using chemical and genetic interventions. We confirmed that TrkB, PLC, and PI3K were critical for the postsynaptic distribution of PSD-95. Furthermore, suppression of MAPK/ERK also disrupted PSD-95 expression. Next, we examined the contribution of PKC. While both chelerythrine and ZIP suppressed the postsynaptic localization of PSD-95, RNA interference for PKMϖ did not have a significant effect. This result suggests that the ZIP peptide, widely used as the “specific” PKMϖ antagonist by many investigators may block a PKC variant other than PKMϖ such as PKCλ/ι. Our results indicate that TrkB regulates postsynaptic localization of PSD-95 through all three downstream pathways, but also recommend further work to identify other PKC variants that regulate palmitoylation and synaptic localization of PSD-95.
PMCID: PMC3978359  PMID: 24744726
synapse formation; BDNF; TrkB; PSD-95; PKMϖ; protein kinase C; MAP kinase; PI-3 kinase
8.  Synaptic and nonsynaptic plasticity approximating probabilistic inference 
Learning and memory operations in neural circuits are believed to involve molecular cascades of synaptic and nonsynaptic changes that lead to a diverse repertoire of dynamical phenomena at higher levels of processing. Hebbian and homeostatic plasticity, neuromodulation, and intrinsic excitability all conspire to form and maintain memories. But it is still unclear how these seemingly redundant mechanisms could jointly orchestrate learning in a more unified system. To this end, a Hebbian learning rule for spiking neurons inspired by Bayesian statistics is proposed. In this model, synaptic weights and intrinsic currents are adapted on-line upon arrival of single spikes, which initiate a cascade of temporally interacting memory traces that locally estimate probabilities associated with relative neuronal activation levels. Trace dynamics enable synaptic learning to readily demonstrate a spike-timing dependence, stably return to a set-point over long time scales, and remain competitive despite this stability. Beyond unsupervised learning, linking the traces with an external plasticity-modulating signal enables spike-based reinforcement learning. At the postsynaptic neuron, the traces are represented by an activity-dependent ion channel that is shown to regulate the input received by a postsynaptic cell and generate intrinsic graded persistent firing levels. We show how spike-based Hebbian-Bayesian learning can be performed in a simulated inference task using integrate-and-fire (IAF) neurons that are Poisson-firing and background-driven, similar to the preferred regime of cortical neurons. Our results support the view that neurons can represent information in the form of probability distributions, and that probabilistic inference could be a functional by-product of coupled synaptic and nonsynaptic mechanisms operating over several timescales. The model provides a biophysical realization of Bayesian computation by reconciling several observed neural phenomena whose functional effects are only partially understood in concert.
PMCID: PMC3986567  PMID: 24782758
Bayes' rule; synaptic plasticity and memory modeling; intrinsic excitability; naïve Bayes classifier; spiking neural networks; Hebbian learning
9.  The role of D-serine and glycine as co-agonists of NMDA receptors in motor neuron degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 
The fundamental role of D-serine as a co-agonist at the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), mediating both physiological actions of glutamate in long term potentiation and nociception and also pathological effects mediated by excitotoxicty, are well-established. More recently, a direct link to a chronic neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (ALS) has been suggested by findings that D-serine levels are elevated in sporadic ALS and the G93A SOD1 model of ALS (Sasabe et al., 2007, 2012) and that a pathogenic mutation (R199W) in the enzyme that degrades D-serine, D-amino acid oxidase (DAO), co-segregates with disease in familial ALS (Mitchell et al., 2010). Moreover, D-serine, its biosynthetic enzyme, serine racemase (SR) and DAO are abundant in human spinal cord and severely depleted in ALS. Using cell culture models, we have defined the effects of R199W-DAO, and shown that it activates autophagy, leads to the formation of ubiquitinated aggregates and promotes apoptosis, all of which processes are attenuated by a D-serine/glycine site NMDAR antagonist. These studies provide considerable insight into the crosstalk between neurons and glia and also into potential therapeutic approaches for ALS.
PMCID: PMC3997022  PMID: 24795623
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); motor neuron disease; D-serine; D-amino acid oxidase (DAO); neurodegeneration; N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor (NMDAR); apoptosis; autophagy
10.  Serine racemase: a key player in apoptosis and necrosis 
A fine balance between cell survival and cell death is required to sculpt the nervous system during development. However, an excess of cell death can occur following trauma, exposure to neurotoxins or alcohol, and some developmental and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) support synaptic plasticity and survival of many neuronal populations whereas inappropriate activation may promote various forms of cell death, apoptosis, and necrosis representing the two extremes of a continuum of cell death processes both “in vitro” and “in vivo.” Hence, by identifying the switches controlling pro-survival vs. apoptosis and apoptosis vs. pro-excitotoxic outcome of NMDAR stimulation, NMDAR modulators could be developed that selectively block the cell death enhancing pro-survival signaling or synaptic plasticity mediated by NMDAR. Among these modulators, a role is emerging for the enzyme serine racemase (SR) that synthesizes D-serine, a key co-agonist with glutamate at NMDAR. This review summarizes the experimental evidence from “in vitro” neuronal cultures—with special emphasis on cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs)—and “in vivo” models of neurodegeneration, where the dual role of the SR/D-serine pathway as a master regulator of apoptosis and the apoptosis-necrosis shift will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4000995  PMID: 24795622
serine racemase; D-serine; neurodegeneration; apoptosis-necrosis shift; NMDAR; neurological disorders; review
11.  D-amino acid oxidase is expressed in the ventral tegmental area and modulates cortical dopamine 
D-amino acid oxidase (DAO, DAAO) degrades the NMDA receptor co-agonist D-serine, modulating D-serine levels and thence NMDA receptor function. DAO inhibitors are under development as a therapy for schizophrenia, a disorder involving both NMDA receptor and dopaminergic dysfunction. However, a direct role for DAO in dopamine regulation has not been demonstrated. Here, we address this question in two ways. First, using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we show that DAO mRNA and immunoreactivity are present in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the rat, in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive and -negative neurons, and in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-immunoreactive astrocytes. Second, we show that injection into the VTA of sodium benzoate, a DAO inhibitor, increases frontal cortex extracellular dopamine, as measured by in vivo microdialysis and high performance liquid chromatography. Combining sodium benzoate and D-serine did not enhance this effect, and injection of D-serine alone affected dopamine metabolites but not dopamine. These data show that DAO is expressed in the VTA, and suggest that it impacts on the mesocortical dopamine system. The mechanism by which the observed effects occur, and the implications of these findings for schizophrenia therapy, require further study.
PMCID: PMC4014674  PMID: 24822045
DAAO; DAO; D-serine; microdialysis; NMDA receptor; schizophrenia
12.  Cell-type specific mechanisms of D-serine uptake and release in the brain 
Accumulating evidence during the last decade established that D-serine is a key signaling molecule utilized by neurons and astroglia in the mammalian central nervous system. D-serine is increasingly appreciated as the main physiological endogenous coagonist for synaptic NMDA receptors at central excitatory synapses; it is mandatory for long-term changes in synaptic strength, memory, learning, and social interactions. Alterations in the extracellular levels of D-serine leading to disrupted cell-cell signaling are a trademark of many chronic or acute neurological (i.e., Alzheimer disease, epilepsy, stroke) and psychiatric (i.e., schizophrenia) disorders, and are associated with addictive behavior (i.e., cocaine addiction). Indeed, fine tuning of the extracellular levels of D-serine, achieved by various molecular machineries and signaling pathways, is necessary for maintenance of accurate NMDA receptor functions. Here, we review the experimental data supporting the notion that astroglia and neurons use different pathways to regulate levels of extracellular D-serine.
PMCID: PMC4039169  PMID: 24910611
NMDA receptors; coagonists; exocytosis; transporters; calcium; synapse
13.  Postsynaptic protein synthesis is required for presynaptic enhancement in persistent forms of long-term potentiation 
Long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus is a fundamental process underlying learning and memory in the brain. At CA3-CA1 synapses, three discrete forms of LTP (LTP1, 2, and 3) have been differentiated on the basis of their persistence, maintenance mechanisms, Ca2+ signaling pathways, expression loci, and electrophysiological requirements. We previously showed that LTP2 and LTP3 involve a presynaptic expression component that is established in a translation-dependent manner. Here we investigate the locus of translation required for presynaptic expression. Neurotransmitter release rate was estimated via FM 1-43 destaining from CA3 terminals in hippocampal slices from male Wistar rats (6–8 weeks). Destaining was measured at sites making putative contact with CA1 dendritic processes in stratum radiatum that had been filled with a membrane impermeable translation inhibitor and a fluorescent indicator. Our results suggest that inhibition of postsynaptic translation eliminates the enhanced release ordinarily observed at 160 min post-LTP induction, and that this effect is limited to sites closely apposed to the filled postsynaptic cell. We conclude that postsynaptic translation is required for the presynaptic component of LTP2 and LTP3 expression. These data considerably strengthen the mechanistic separation of LTP1, 2, and 3 and provide evidence for an expanded repertoire of communication between synaptic elements.
PMCID: PMC3582942  PMID: 23450328
LTP; expression; presynaptic; hippocampus; electrophysiology
14.  Cholinergic modulation of hippocampal network function 
Cholinergic septohippocampal projections from the medial septal area to the hippocampus are proposed to have important roles in cognition by modulating properties of the hippocampal network. However, the precise spatial and temporal profile of acetylcholine release in the hippocampus remains unclear making it difficult to define specific roles for cholinergic transmission in hippocampal dependent behaviors. This is partly due to a lack of tools enabling specific intervention in, and recording of, cholinergic transmission. Here, we review the organization of septohippocampal cholinergic projections and hippocampal acetylcholine receptors as well as the role of cholinergic transmission in modulating cellular excitability, synaptic plasticity, and rhythmic network oscillations. We point to a number of open questions that remain unanswered and discuss the potential for recently developed techniques to provide a radical reappraisal of the function of cholinergic inputs to the hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC3726829  PMID: 23908628
synaptic plasticity; acetylcholine; medial septum; hippocampus; septohippocampal pathway; memory
15.  Leptin regulation of neuronal morphology and hippocampal synaptic function 
The central actions of the hormone leptin in regulating energy homeostasis via the hypothalamus are well documented. However, evidence is growing that this hormone can also modify the structure and function of synapses throughout the CNS. The hippocampus is a region of the forebrain that plays a crucial role in associative learning and memory and is an area also highly vulnerable to neurodegenerative processes. Recent studies indicate that leptin is a potential cognitive enhancer as it modulates the cellular processes underlying hippocampal-dependent learning and memory including dendritic morphology, glutamate receptor trafficking and activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. Here, we review the recent evidence implicating the hormone leptin as a key regulator of hippocampal synaptic function and discuss the role of leptin receptor-driven lipid signaling pathways involved in this process.
PMCID: PMC3734345  PMID: 23964236
leptin; synaptic plasticity; morphology; receptor trafficking; hippocampus; AMPA receptor; PTEN
16.  The temporoammonic input to the hippocampal CA1 region displays distinctly different synaptic plasticity compared to the Schaffer collateral input in vivo: significance for synaptic information processing 
In terms of its sub-regional differentiation, the hippocampal CA1 region receives cortical information directly via the perforant (temporoammonic) path (pp-CA1 synapse) and indirectly via the tri-synaptic pathway where the last relay station is the Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapse (Sc-CA1 synapse). Research to date on pp-CA1 synapses has been conducted predominantly in vitro and never in awake animals, but these studies hint that information processing at this synapse might be distinct to processing at the Sc-CA1 synapse. Here, we characterized synaptic properties and synaptic plasticity at the pp-CA1 synapse of freely behaving adult rats. We observed that field excitatory postsynaptic potentials at the pp-CA1 synapse have longer onset latencies and a shorter time-to-peak compared to the Sc-CA1 synapse. LTP (>24 h) was successfully evoked by tetanic afferent stimulation of pp-CA1 synapses. Low frequency stimulation evoked synaptic depression at Sc-CA1 synapses, but did not elicit LTD at pp-CA1 synapses unless the Schaffer collateral afferents to the CA1 region had been severed. Paired-pulse responses also showed significant differences. Our data suggest that synaptic plasticity at the pp-CA1 synapse is distinct from the Sc-CA1 synapse and that this may reflect its specific role in hippocampal information processing.
PMCID: PMC3750210  PMID: 23986697
perforant path; synaptic plasticity; hippocampus; CA1; LTD; LTP; in vivo
17.  Maturation and integration of adult born hippocampal neurons: signal convergence onto small Rho GTPases 
Adult neurogenesis, restricted to specific regions in the mammalian brain, represents one of the most interesting forms of plasticity in the mature nervous system. Adult-born hippocampal neurons play important roles in certain forms of learning and memory, and altered hippocampal neurogenesis has been associated with a number of neuropsychiatric diseases such as major depression and epilepsy. Newborn neurons go through distinct developmental steps, from a dividing neurogenic precursor to a synaptically integrated mature neuron. Previous studies have uncovered several molecular signaling pathways involved in distinct steps of this maturational process. In this context, the small Rho GTPases, Cdc42, Rac1, and RhoA have recently been shown to regulate the morphological and synaptic maturation of adult-born dentate granule cells in vivo. Distinct upstream regulators, including growth factors that modulate maturation and integration of newborn neurons have been shown to also recruit the small Rho GTPases. Here we review recent findings and highlight the possibility that small Rho GTPases may act as central assimilators, downstream of critical input onto adult-born hippocampal neurons contributing to their maturation and integration into the existing dentate gyrus (DG) circuitry.
PMCID: PMC3752586  PMID: 23986696
neurogenesis; Rac1; Cdc42; RhoA; synaptic integration; spine growth; dendrite; in vivo
18.  Growth factors in synaptic function 
Synapses are increasingly recognized as key structures that malfunction in disorders like schizophrenia, mental retardation, and neurodegenerative diseases. The importance and complexity of the synapse has fuelled research into the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptogenesis, synaptic transmission, and plasticity. In this regard, neurotrophic factors such as netrin, Wnt, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and others have gained prominence for their ability to regulate synaptic function. Several of these factors were first implicated in neuroprotection, neuronal growth, and axon guidance. However, their roles in synaptic development and function have become increasingly clear, and the downstream signaling pathways employed by these factors have begun to be elucidated. In this review, we will address the role of these factors and their downstream effectors in synaptic function in vivo and in cultured neurons.
PMCID: PMC3776238  PMID: 24065916
netrin; Wnt; TGF-β; TNF-α; synaptogenesis; synaptic transmission and plasticity
19.  Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in VMH as the causal factor for and therapeutic tool to treat visceral adiposity and hyperleptinemia in type 2 diabetic Goto–Kakizaki rats 
We previously reported that the type 2 diabetic Goto–Kakizaki (GK) rats at young adult ages (6–12 weeks) exhibited increased visceral fat mass and hyperleptinemia, due to hyperphagia caused primarily by neuropeptide Y (NPY) overexpression in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. Later, we found that GK rats continued to exhibit mesenteric fat accumulation and hyperleptinemia at least until 26 weeks of age, while hyperphagia and NPY overexpression ceased at 15 weeks of age. Therefore, we hypothesized that the long-lasting fat accumulation and hyperleptinemia are due to unidentified brain dysfunction other than NPY overexpression. In GK rats aged 26 weeks, glucose transporter-2 (GLUT2) mRNA expression in ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) was markedly reduced in parallel with significant decreases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA level and BDNF-expressing cell numbers in the VMH. Pharmacologic inhibition of glucose utilization reduced BDNF mRNA expression in VMH in vivo and in vitro. The results suggested that impaired glucose utilization caused the reduction of BDNF. On the other hand, intracerebroventricular injection of BDNF for 6 days ameliorated hyperleptinemia in a long-lasting manner concurrently with feeding suppression in GK rats. Restricted feeding paired to BDNF-treated rats reduced plasma leptin level only transiently. BDNF treatment also reduced mesenteric fat mass in GK rats. These results reveal a novel action mode of BDNF to long-lastingly counteract visceral adiposity and hyperleptinemia in addition to and independently of its anorexigenic action. These results suggest that visceral fat accumulation and hyperleptinemia are at least partly due to the reduction of BDNF in VMH primarily caused by impaired glucose utilization in GK rats. The BDNF supplementation could provide an effective treatment of visceral obesity, hyperleptinemia and leptin resistance in type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3788348  PMID: 24106476
BDNF; type 2 diabetes; adiposity; visceral fat; hyperleptinemia; glucose; VMH
20.  Presynaptic long-term plasticity 
Long-term synaptic plasticity is a major cellular substrate for learning, memory, and behavioral adaptation. Although early examples of long-term synaptic plasticity described a mechanism by which postsynaptic signal transduction was potentiated, it is now apparent that there is a vast array of mechanisms for long-term synaptic plasticity that involve modifications to either or both the presynaptic terminal and postsynaptic site. In this article, we discuss current and evolving approaches to identify presynaptic mechanisms as well as discuss their limitations. We next provide examples of the diverse circuits in which presynaptic forms of long-term synaptic plasticity have been described and discuss the potential contribution this form of plasticity might add to circuit function. Finally, we examine the present evidence for the molecular pathways and cellular events underlying presynaptic long-term synaptic plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3797957  PMID: 24146648
synaptic plasticity; neurotransmitter release; presynaptic plasticity; synaptic vesicle; long-term potentiation; long-term depression
21.  Synaptic membrane rafts: traffic lights for local neurotrophin signaling? 
Lipid rafts, cholesterol and lipid rich microdomains, are believed to play important roles as platforms for the partitioning of transmembrane and synaptic proteins involved in synaptic signaling, plasticity, and maintenance. There is increasing evidence of a physical interaction between post-synaptic densities and post-synaptic lipid rafts. Localization of proteins within lipid rafts is highly regulated, and therefore lipid rafts may function as traffic lights modulating and fine-tuning neuronal signaling. The tyrosine kinase neurotrophin receptors (Trk) and the low-affinity p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) are enriched in neuronal lipid rafts together with the intermediates of downstream signaling pathways, suggesting a possible role of rafts in neurotrophin signaling. Moreover, neurotrophins and their receptors are involved in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Cholesterol is an important component of lipid rafts and its depletion leads to gradual loss of synapses, underscoring the importance of lipid rafts for proper neuronal function. Here, we review and discuss the idea that translocation of neurotrophin receptors in synaptic rafts may account for the selectivity of their transduced signals.
PMCID: PMC3798807  PMID: 24151466
neurotrophin signaling; lipid rafts; synaptic rafts; BDNF; TrkB receptor translocation
22.  Learning-facilitated synaptic plasticity occurs in the intermediate hippocampus in association with spatial learning 
The dorsoventral axis of the hippocampus is differentiated into dorsal, intermediate, and ventral parts. Whereas the dorsal part is believed to specialize in processing spatial information, the ventral may be equipped to process non-spatial information. The precise role of the intermediate hippocampus is unclear, although recent data suggests it is functionally distinct, at least from the dorsal hippocampus. Learning-facilitated synaptic plasticity describes the ability of hippocampal synapses to respond with robust synaptic plasticity (>24 h) when a spatial learning event is coupled with afferent stimulation that would normally not lead to a lasting plasticity response: in the dorsal hippocampus novel space facilitates robust expression of long-term potentiation (LTP), whereas novel spatial content facilitates long-term depression (LTD). We explored whether the intermediate hippocampus engages in this kind of synaptic plasticity in response to novel spatial experience. In freely moving rats, high-frequency stimulation at 200 Hz (3 bursts of 15 stimuli) elicited synaptic potentiation that lasted for at least 4 h. Coupling of this stimulation with the exploration of a novel holeboard resulted in LTP that lasted for over 24 h. Low frequency afferent stimulation (1 Hz, 900 pulses) resulted in short-term depression (STD) that was significantly enhanced and prolonged by exposure to a novel large orientational (landmark) cues, however LTD was not enabled. Exposure to a holeboard that included novel objects in the holeboard holes elicited a transient enhancement of STD of the population spike (PS) but not field EPSP, and also failed to facilitate the expression of LTD. Our data suggest that the intermediate dentate gyrus engages in processing of spatial information, but is functionally distinct to the dorsal dentate gyrus. This may in turn reflect their assumed different roles in synaptic information processing and memory formation.
PMCID: PMC3810593  PMID: 24194716
LTP; LTD; intermediate hippocampus; dorsoventral axis; in vivo; rats; learning; memory
23.  Target-cell-specific short-term plasticity in local circuits 
Short-term plasticity (STP) denotes changes in synaptic strength that last up to tens of seconds. It is generally thought that STP impacts information transfer across synaptic connections and may thereby provide neurons with, for example, the ability to detect input coherence, to maintain stability and to promote synchronization. STP is due to a combination of mechanisms, including vesicle depletion and calcium accumulation in synaptic terminals. Different forms of STP exist, depending on many factors, including synapse type. Recent evidence shows that synapse dependence holds true even for connections that originate from a single presynaptic cell, which implies that postsynaptic target cell type can determine synaptic short-term dynamics. This arrangement is surprising, since STP itself is chiefly due to presynaptic mechanisms. Target-specific synaptic dynamics in addition imply that STP is not a bug resulting from synapses fatiguing when driven too hard, but rather a feature that is selectively implemented in the brain for specific functional purposes. As an example, target-specific STP results in sequential somatic and dendritic inhibition in neocortical and hippocampal excitatory cells during high-frequency firing. Recent studies also show that the Elfn1 gene specifically controls STP at some synapse types. In addition, presynaptic NMDA receptors have been implicated in synapse-specific control of synaptic dynamics during high-frequency activity. We argue that synapse-specific STP deserves considerable further study, both experimentally and theoretically, since its function is not well known. We propose that synapse-specific STP has to be understood in the context of the local circuit, which requires combining different scientific disciplines ranging from molecular biology through electrophysiology to computer modeling.
PMCID: PMC3854841  PMID: 24367330
short-term plasticity; synapse specificity; synaptic disease; network models; synapse formation; development
24.  SynProt: A Database for Proteins of Detergent-Resistant Synaptic Protein Preparations 
Chemical synapses are highly specialized cell–cell contacts for communication between neurons in the CNS characterized by complex and dynamic protein networks at both synaptic membranes. The cytomatrix at the active zone (CAZ) organizes the apparatus for the regulated release of transmitters from the presynapse. At the postsynaptic side, the postsynaptic density constitutes the machinery for detection, integration, and transduction of the transmitter signal. Both pre- and postsynaptic protein networks represent the molecular substrates for synaptic plasticity. Their function can be altered both by regulating their composition and by post-translational modification of their components. For a comprehensive understanding of synaptic networks the entire ensemble of synaptic proteins has to be considered. To support this, we established a comprehensive database for synaptic junction proteins (SynProt database) primarily based on proteomics data obtained from biochemical preparations of detergent-resistant synaptic junctions. The database currently contains 2,788 non-redundant entries of rat, mouse, and some human proteins, which mainly have been manually extracted from 12 proteomic studies and annotated for synaptic subcellular localization. Each dataset is completed with manually added information including protein classifiers as well as automatically retrieved and updated information from public databases (UniProt and PubMed). We intend that the database will be used to support modeling of synaptic protein networks and rational experimental design.
PMCID: PMC3382120  PMID: 22737123
chemical synapse; postsynaptic density; synaptic junction; cytomatrix at the active zone; proteomics; rat; mouse; human
25.  Spike-Timing-Dependent Plasticity: A Comprehensive Overview 
PMCID: PMC3395004  PMID: 22807913

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