Short-term field stimulation mimics synaptic maturation of hippocampal synapses

Elena E. Bagley, Gary L. Westbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many aspects of synaptic transmission are modified during development, reflecting not only the consequence of developmental programmes of gene expression, but also the effects of ongoing neural activity. We investigated the role of synaptic activity in the maturation of Schaffer collateral (SC)-CA1 synapses using sustained low frequency field stimulation of acute brain slices. Between postnatal days 4-6 and 14-16, mouse SC-CA1 synapses in naïve slices showed a developmental decrease in the probability of transmitter release (P r) and an increase in the contribution of GluN2A (NR2A) subunits to the NMDA receptor-mediated excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC). Surprisingly, these developmental changes could be mimicked by short term (4 h) in vitro synaptic activity in slices taken from postnatal days (PND) 4-6 mice. However, different activity levels were required to alter release probability compared to the NMDA receptor subunit composition. Spontaneous synaptic activity was sufficient to alter the NMDA receptor subunit composition, but sustained low-frequency field stimulation of the brain slice (0.1 Hz, 4 h) was necessary to reduce release probability, as assessed 1 h following the cessation of stimulation. The protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin blocked the effect of field stimulation on release probability. These results indicate that features of mature excitatory synapses can be rapidly induced in immature neurons. The activity dependence of the P r and NMDA receptor subunit composition serves as a sensitive indicator of prior neural activity, and provides dual mechanisms for homeostatic control of excitatory synaptic efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1641-1654
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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