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Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

ISSN Print: 0892-0915

Critical Reviews™ in Neurobiology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevNeurobiol.v18.i1-2.30
pages 13-23

Role of Giant Depolarizing Potentials in Shaping Synaptic Currents in the Developing Hippocampus

Majid H. Mohajerani
Neuroscience Program, International School for Advanced Studies
Enrico Cherubini
Neuroscience Program, International School for Advanced Studies

ABSTRACT

Early in development, network activity in the hippocampus is characterized by giant depolarizing potentials (GDPs). These potentials consist of recurrent membrane depolarizations with superimposed fast action potentials separated by quiescent intervals. They are generated by the interplay of glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) that, in the immediate postnatal period, is depolarizing and excitatory. Here, we review some recent data concerning the functional role of GDPs in shaping synaptic currents at low-probability mossy-fiber (MF)-CA3 synapses. A pairing procedure was used to correlate GDPs-associated calcium increase in the postsynaptic cell with stimulation of afferent inputs. The pairing protocol caused the appearance of synaptic responses or persistently enhanced the number of successes in "presynap-tically" silent or low-probability synapses, respectively. In double-pulses experiments, this effect was associated with a significant reduction in the paired-pulse ratio and a significant increase in the inverse squared value of the coefficient of variation of response amplitude, suggesting that long-term potentiation (LTP) expression was due to the increased probability of transmitter released. In the absence of pairing, no significant changes in synaptic efficacy could be detected. When the interval between GDPs and MF stimulation was increased, the potentiating effect progressively declined and reached the control level in less than 4 s. Mossy-fiber responses were identified on the basis of their paired-pulse facilitation, short-term frequency facilitation, and sensitivity to the group III metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonist, 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (L-AP4). Using these criteria, we found that MFs release mainly GAB A onto CA3 pyramidal cells or GABAergic interneurons. In line with their GABAergic nature, MF responses were blocked by the GABAA receptor antagonists bicuculline or gabazine and were potentiated by NO-711, a blocker of the GABA transporter GAT-1, and by flurazepam, an al-losteric modulator of GABAA receptors. In addition, chemical stimulation of granule cell den-drites with glutamate in the presence of 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (DNQX) induced into target neurons barrages of L-AP4-sensitive GABAA-mediated postsynaptic currents, further supporting the GABAergic phenotype of granule cells. As in MF, pairing GDPs with Schaffer collateral stimulation induced a persistent potentiation of spontaneous and evoked α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA)-mediated responses at poorly developed CA3-CA1 synapses. This effect was mediated by an increase in calcium in the postsynaptic cell via voltage-dependent calcium channels activated by the depolarizing action of GABA during GDPs. We provide evidence also that, at these connections, cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) is the signaling molecule necessary for enhancing synaptic efficacy, since GDPs-induced potentiation was prevented by the membrane permeable PKA inhibitor (PKI 14-22) applied in the bath or by the membrane impermeable form of PKI (PKI 6-22) applied via the patch pipette. In conclusion, it is suggested that GDPs translate specific patterns of pre- and postsynaptic activity into long-lasting changes in synaptic strength and stabilize synaptic connections, thus contributing to the structural refinement of the hippocampal circuit.