The spine apparatus is an essential component of dendritic spines of cortical and hippocampal neurons, yet its functions are still enigmatic. Synaptopodin (SP), an actin-binding protein, is tightly associated with the spine apparatus and it may play a role in synaptic plasticity, but it has not yet been linked mechanistically to synaptic functions. We studied endogenous and transfected SP in dendritic spines of cultured hippocampal neurons and found that spines containing SP generate larger responses to flash photolysis of caged glutamate than SP-negative ones. An NMDA-receptor-mediated chemical long-term potentiation caused the accumulation of GFP-GluR1 in spine heads of control but not of shRNA-transfected, SP-deficient neurons. SP is linked to calcium stores, because their pharmacological blockade eliminated SP-related enhancement of glutamate responses, and release of calcium from stores produced an SP-dependent increase of GluR1 in spines. Thus, SP plays a crucial role in the calcium store-associated ability of neurons to undergo long-term plasticity.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that can alter cortical excitability in human subjects for hours beyond the stimulation period. It thus has potential as a therapeutic tool in neuropsychiatric disorders associated with alterations in cortical excitability. However, rTMS-induced neural plasticity remains insufficiently understood at the cellular level. To learn more about the effects of repetitive magnetic stimulation (rMS), we established an in vitro model of rMS using mouse organotypic entorhino-hippocampal slice cultures. We assessed the outcome of a high-frequency (10 Hz) rMS protocol on functional and structural properties of excitatory synapses in mature hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, immunohistochemistry, and time-lapse imaging techniques revealed that rMS induces a long-lasting increase in glutamatergic synaptic strength, which is accompanied by structural remodeling of dendritic spines. The effects of rMS on spine size were predominantly seen in small spines, suggesting differential effects of rMS on subpopulations of spines. Furthermore, our data indicate that rMS-induced postsynaptic changes depend on the NMDA receptor-mediated accumulation of GluA1-containing AMPA receptors. These results provide first experimental evidence that rMS induces coordinated functional and structural plasticity of excitatory postsynapses, which is consistent with a long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission.
Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels are key modulators of neuronal activity by providing the depolarizing cation current I(h) involved in rhythmogenesis, dendritic integration, and synaptic transmission. These tasks critically depend on the availability of HCN channels, which is dynamically regulated by intracellular cAMP; the range of this regulation, however, largely differs among neurons in the mammalian brain. Using affinity purification and high-resolution mass spectrometry, we identify the PEX5R/Trip8b protein as the beta subunit of HCN channels in the mammalian brain. Coassembly of PEX5R/Trip8b affects HCN channel gating in a subtype-dependent and mode-specific way: activation of HCN2 and HCN4 by cAMP is largely impaired, while gating by phosphoinositides and basal voltage-dependence remain unaffected. De novo expression of PEX5R/Trip8b in cardiomyocytes abolishes beta-adrenergic stimulation of HCN channels. These results demonstrate that PEX5R/Trip8b is an intrinsic auxiliary subunit of brain HCN channels and establish HCN-PEX5R/Trip8b coassembly as a mechanism to control the channels' responsiveness to cyclic nucleotide signaling.
Synaptopodin (SP) is a marker and essential component of the spine apparatus (SA), an enigmatic cellular organelle composed of stacked smooth endoplasmic reticulum that has been linked to synaptic plasticity. However, SP/SA-mediated synaptic plasticity remains incompletely understood. To study the role of SP/SA in homeostatic synaptic plasticity we here used denervation-induced synaptic scaling of mouse dentate granule cells as a model system. This form of plasticity is of considerable interest in the context of neurological diseases that are associated with the loss of neurons and subsequent denervation of connected brain regions. In entorhino-hippocampal slice cultures prepared from SP-deficient mice, which lack the SA, a compensatory increase in excitatory synaptic strength was not observed following partial deafferentation. In line with this finding, prolonged blockade of sodium channels with tetrodotoxin induced homeostatic synaptic scaling in wild-type, but not SP-deficient, slice cultures. By crossing SP-deficient mice with a newly generated transgenic mouse strain that expresses GFP-tagged SP under the control of the Thy1.2 promoter, the ability of dentate granule cells to form the SA and to homeostatically strengthen excitatory synapses was rescued. Interestingly, homeostatic synaptic strengthening was accompanied by a compensatory increase in SP cluster size/stability and SA stack number, suggesting that activity-dependent SP/SA remodeling could be part of a negative feedback mechanism that aims at adjusting the strength of excitatory synapses to persisting changes in network activity. Thus, our results disclose an important role for SP/SA in homeostatic synaptic plasticity.
The postsynaptic adhesion protein neuroligin-2 (NL2) is selectively localized at inhibitory synapses. Here, we studied network activity in the dentate gyrus of NL2-deficient mice following perforant path (PP) stimulation in vivo. We found a strong increase in granule cell (GC) excitability. Furthermore, paired-pulse inhibition (PPI) of the population spike, a measure for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic network inhibition, was severely impaired and associated with reduced GABA(A) receptor (GABA(A)R)-mediated miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents recorded from NL2-deficient GCs. In agreement with these functional data, the number of gephyrin and GABA(A)R clusters was significantly reduced in the absence of NL2, indicating a loss of synaptic GABA(A)Rs from the somata of GCs. Computer simulations of the dentate network showed that impairment of perisomatic inhibition is able to explain the electrophysiological changes observed in the dentate circuitry of NL2 knockout animals. Collectively, our data demonstrate for the first time that deletion of NL2 increases excitability of cortical neurons in the hippocampus of intact animals, most likely through impaired GABA(A)R clustering.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is used as a therapeutic tool in neurology and psychiatry. While repetitive magnetic stimulation (rMS) has been shown to induce plasticity of excitatory synapses, it is unclear whether rMS can also modify structural and functional properties of inhibitory inputs. Here we employed 10-Hz rMS of entorhinohippocampal slice cultures to study plasticity of inhibitory neurotransmission on CA1 pyramidal neurons. Our experiments reveal a rMS-induced reduction in GABAergic synaptic strength (2–4 h after stimulation), which is Ca2+-dependent and accompanied by the remodelling of postsynaptic gephyrin scaffolds. Furthermore, we present evidence that 10-Hz rMS predominantly acts on dendritic, but not somatic inhibition. Consistent with this finding, a reduction in clustered gephyrin is detected in CA1 stratum radiatum of rTMS-treated anaesthetized mice. These results disclose that rTMS induces coordinated Ca2+-dependent structural and functional changes of specific inhibitory postsynapses on principal neurons.
Denervation-induced changes in excitatory synaptic strength were studied following entorhinal deafferentation of hippocampal granule cells in mature (≥3 weeks old) mouse organotypic entorhino-hippocampal slice cultures. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings revealed an increase in excitatory synaptic strength in response to denervation during the first week after denervation. By the end of the second week synaptic strength had returned to baseline. Because these adaptations occurred in response to the loss of excitatory afferents, they appeared to be in line with a homeostatic adjustment of excitatory synaptic strength. To test whether denervation-induced changes in synaptic strength exploit similar mechanisms as homeostatic synaptic scaling following pharmacological activity blockade, we treated denervated cultures at 2 days post lesion for 2 days with tetrodotoxin. In these cultures, the effects of denervation and activity blockade were not additive, suggesting that similar mechanisms are involved. Finally, we investigated whether entorhinal denervation, which removes afferents from the distal dendrites of granule cells while leaving the associational afferents to the proximal dendrites of granule cells intact, results in a global or a local up-scaling of granule cell synapses. By using computational modeling and local electrical stimulations in Strontium (Sr2+)-containing bath solution, we found evidence for a lamina-specific increase in excitatory synaptic strength in the denervated outer molecular layer at 3–4 days post lesion. Taken together, our data show that entorhinal denervation results in homeostatic functional changes of excitatory postsynapses of denervated dentate granule cells in vitro.
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