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Unconventional forms of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and the striatum Liu, Zhi

Abstract

Synaptic transmission occurs as a result of either a spontaneous release of presynaptic vesicles or a batch release of presynaptic vesicles driven by action potentials. The physiological consequence of synaptic transmission driven by different patterns and frequencies of presynaptic stimulation has been extensively investigated. However, the physiological nature, mechanism as well as relevance of prolonged presynaptic stimulation have been poorly characterized. In this dissertation, I present three projects in which prolonged stimulation of synaptic transmission in different forms and different brain regions was studied for its effect on synaptic transmission, mechanisms and physiological relevance. In the first project, prolonged electrical stimulation (100 sec) at high frequency induced a deep synaptic depression in acute hippocampal slices, followed by a recovery of synaptic transmission after ~15 min. The deep synaptic depression was attributed to a complete depletion of presynaptic vesicle pools. In the second project, attempts were made to characterize the mechanism of nuclear activation of gene transcription induced by prolonged electrical stimulation (100 sec). Our results demonstrated that reduced inactivation of non-L-type calcium channels failed to provide calcium required for gene transcription, leaving the activation of gene transcription a selective function for L-type calcium channels. In the third project, we sought to study the physiological relevance of enhanced miniature events of inhibitory synapses induced by prolonged chemical stimulation. We showed that prolonged application (2 min) of nicotine to the striatal slice enhanced the frequency of miniature inhibitory currents that was accompanied with a reduction in the amplitude of evoked response. This reduction in the amplitude of evoked responses was ascribed to a compromised action potential invasion of presynaptic terminals possibly due to inactivation of sodium channels resulting from nicotine-induced depolarization. To summarize, prolonged stimulation of presynaptic vesicle release imposes significant influence upon neuron-to-neuron communication, with distinct mechanisms in different brain regions.

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