Long-term potentiation and functional synapse induction in developing hippocampus

Author(s): Durand GM, Kovalchuk Y, Konnerth A


Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a cellular mechanism that potentially underlies learning and memory. To test the hypothesis that LTP is involved in activity-dependent synapse formation, we combined whole-cell recordings and confocal microscopy to investigate hippocampal glutamatergic synapses at their earliest stages of development. Here we report that, during the first postnatal week, the hippocampal glutamatergic network becomes gradually functional owing to the transformation of precursor, pure NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate)-receptor-based synaptic contacts into conducting AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-proprionate)/NMDA-re cep tor-type synapses. This functional synapse induction is caused by an associative form of LTP, so it is input-specific and easily triggered experimentally by pairing presynaptic stimulation with postsynaptic depolarization. Our results challenge previous views that LTP occurs in the hippocampus only at later stages of development and that its induction requires dendritic spines. They also provide direct evidence that LTP is important for the activity-dependent formation of conducting glutamatergic synapses in the developing mammalian brain.

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