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Investigations examining the role of polysialic acid (PSA) on the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in synaptic plasticity have yielded inconsistent data. Here, we addressed this issue by determining whether homosynaptic long-term potentiation (LTP) and heterosynaptic long-term depression (LTD) induce changes in the distribution of PSA-NCAM in the dentate gyrus (DG) of rats in vivo. In addition, we also examined whether the observed modifications were initiated via the activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Immunocytochemical analysis showed an increase in PSA-NCAM positive cells both at 2 and 24 h following high-frequency stimulation of either medial or lateral perforant paths, leading to homosynaptic LTP and heterosynaptic LTD, respectively, in the medial molecular layer of the DG. Analysis of sub-cellular distribution of PSA-NCAM by electron microscopy showed decreased PSA dendritic labelling in LTD rats and a sub-cellular relocation towards the spines in LTP rats. Importantly, these modifications were found to be independent of the activation of NMDA receptors. Our findings suggest that strong activation of the granule cells up-regulates PSA-NCAM synthesis which then incorporates into activated synapses, representing NMDA-independent plastic processes that act synergistically on LTP/LTD mechanisms without participating in their expression.
Neuronal networks can adapt to global changes in activity levels through compensatory modifications in pre- and postsynaptic parameters of synaptic transmission. These forms of synaptic plasticity are known as synaptic homeostasis, and are thought to require specific cellular interactions and signaling across the entire neuronal network. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic homeostasis have so far been investigated mostly in primary cultures of dissociated neurons, a preparation that lacks the specificity of in vivo circuitry. Here, we show that there are critical differences in the properties of synaptic homeostasis between dissociated neuronal cultures and organotypic slices, a preparation that preserves more precisely in vivo connectivity. Moreover, the cell adhesion molecule β3 integrin, which regulates excitatory synaptic strength, is specifically required for a postsynaptic form of synaptic homeostasis called synaptic scaling in both dissociated cultures and organotypic slices. Conversely, another form of synaptic homeostasis that involves changes in presynaptic quantal content occurs independently of β3 integrin. Our findings define the differential involvement of β3 integrin in two forms of synaptic homeostasis.
In the postnatal forebrain, the extracellular matrix protein reelin is expressed and secreted by subsets of GABAergic neurons, whereas in the cerebellum reelin is detected in glutamatergic cells of the granule cell layer. Thus, various regions of the postnatal brain present different patterns of reelin expression, whose significance remains unknown. We combined immunocytochemical and pharmacological approaches to characterize the phenotypic and temporal profiles of reelin expression in dissociated cultures of cerebellar granule neurons. A single type of reelin immunoreactivity, identified by a punctate labelling, was present in the somata of the majority of neurons. This immunoreactivity was observed throughout maturation and was exclusively present in glutamatergic neurons expressing the vesicular glutamate transporter 1. Neurons containing the reelin receptors apolipoprotein E receptor 2 (Apoer2) and very low-density lipoprotein receptor (Vldlr) represented about 80% of cerebellar neurons. The vast majority of reelin-positive neurons coexpressed Apoer2, suggesting that reelin immunoreactivity resulted in part from receptor-bound reelin. Inhibition of protein synthesis with cycloheximide completely abolished reelin immunoreactivity. In contrast, blocking protein secretion with brefeldin A did not affect the proportion of punctate neurons but revealed a subpopulation of neurons characterized by a solid reelin staining. These data show for the first time that a homogeneous population of glutamatergic neurons can synthesize and secrete reelin in cerebellar granule cells in vitro.
Adhesive and repellent molecular cues guide migrating cells and growing neurites during development. They also contribute to synaptic function, learning and memory in adulthood. Here, we review the roles of cell adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily (Ig-CAMs) and semaphorins (some of which also contain Ig-like domains) in regulation of synaptic transmission and plasticity. Interestingly, among the seven studied Ig-CAMs, the neuronal cell adhesion molecule proved to be important for all tested forms of hippocampal plasticity, while its associated unusual glycan polysialic acid is necessary and sufficient part for synaptic plasticity only at CA3-CA1 synapses. In contrast, Thy-1 and L1 specifically regulate long-term potentiation (LTP) at synapses formed by entorhinal axons in the dentate gyrus and cornu ammonis, respectively. Contactin-1 is important for long-term depression but not for LTP at CA3-CA1 synapses. Analysis of CHL1-deficient mice illustrates that at intermediate stages of development a deficit in a cell adhesion molecule is compensated but appears as impaired LTP during early and late postnatal development. The emerging mechanisms by which adhesive Ig-CAMs contribute to synaptic plasticity involve regulation of activities of NMDA receptors and L-type Ca2+ channels, signaling via mitogen-activated protein kinase p38, changes in GABAergic inhibition and motility of synaptic elements. Regarding repellent molecules, available data for semaphorins demonstrate their activity-dependent regulation in normal and pathological conditions, synaptic localization of their receptors and their potential to elevate or inhibit synaptic transmission either directly or indirectly.
Synapse development and remodeling are regulated by a plethora of molecules such as receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), a family of cell surface receptors that play critical roles in neural development. Two families of RTKs implicated in synaptic functions, ErbBs and Ephs, share similar characteristics in terms of exhibiting forward and reverse signaling. In this review, we will discuss the latest advances in the functions of ErbBs and Ephs at the synapse, including dendritic spine morphogenesis, synapse formation and maturation, and synaptic transmission and plasticity. In addition to signaling at interneuronal synapses, communication between neuron and glia is increasingly implicated in the control of synaptic functions. Studies on RTKs and their cognate ligands in glial cells enhance our understanding on the nature of ‘tripartite synapse’. Implications of these signaling events in human diseases will be discussed.
Research on the molecular and cellular basis of learning and memory has focused on the mechanisms that underlie the induction and expression of synaptic plasticity. There is increasing evidence that structural changes at the synapse are associated with synaptic plasticity and that extracellular matrix (ECM) components and cell adhesion molecules are associated with these changes. The functions of both groups of molecules can be regulated by proteolysis. In this article we review the roles of selected proteases and protease inhibitors in perisynaptic proteolysis of the ECM and synaptic adhesion proteins and the impact of proteolysis on synaptic modification and cognitive function.
Extracellular matrix (ECM) in the brain is composed of molecules synthesized and secreted by neurons and glial cells in a cell-type-specific and activity-dependent manner. During development, ECM plays crucial roles in proliferation, migration and differentiation of neural cells. In the mature brain, ECM undergoes a slow turnover and supports multiple physiological processes, while restraining structural plasticity. In the first part of this review, we discuss the contribution of ECM molecules to different forms of plasticity, including developmental plasticity in the cortex, long-term potentiation and depression in the hippocampus, homeostatic scaling of synaptic transmission and metaplasticity. In the second part, we focus on pathological changes associated with epileptogenic mutations in ECM-related molecules or caused by seizure-induced remodeling of ECM. The available data suggest that ECM components regulating physiological plasticity are also engaged in different aspects of epileptogenesis, such as dysregulation of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, sprouting of mossy fibers, granule cell dispersion and gliosis. At the end, we discuss combinatorial approaches that might be used to counteract seizure-induced dysregulation of both ECM molecules and extracellular proteases. By restraining ECM modification and preserving the status quo in the brain, these treatments might prove to be valid therapeutic interventions to antagonize the progression of epileptogenesis.
Many neurons and their synapses are enwrapped in a brain-specific form of the extracellular matrix (ECM), the so-called perineuronal net (PNN). It forms late in the postnatal development around the time when synaptic contacts are stabilized. It is made of glycoproteins and proteoglycans of glial as well as neuronal origin. The major organizing polysaccharide of brain extracellular space is the polymeric carbohydrate hyaluronic acid (HA). It forms the backbone of a meshwork consisting of CNS proteoglycans such as the lectican family of chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG). This family comprises four abundant components of brain ECM: aggrecan and versican as broadly expressed CSPGs and neurocan and brevican as nervous-system-specific family members. In this review, we intend to focus on the specific role of the HA-based ECM in synapse development and function.
Low-density-lipoprotein receptors (LDLRs) are an evolutionarily ancient surface protein family with the ability to activate a diversity of extracellular signals across the cellular membrane in the adult central nervous system (CNS). Their intimate roles in modulating synaptic plasticity and their necessity in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory have only recently come to light. Two known LDLR ligands, specifically apolipoprotein E (apoE) and reelin, have been the most widely investigated in this regard. Most of our understanding of synaptic plasticity comes from investigation of both pre- and postsynaptic alterations. Therefore, it is interesting to note that neurons and glia that do not contribute to the synaptic junction in question can secrete signaling molecules that affect synaptic plasticity. Notably, reelin and apoE have been shown to modulate hippocampal long-term potentiation in general, and affect NMDA receptor and AMPA receptor regulation specifically. Furthermore, these receptors and signaling molecules have significant roles in neuronal degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. The recent production of recombinant proteins, knockout and transgenic mice for receptors and ligands and the development of human ApoE targeted replacement mice have significantly expanded our understanding of the roles LDLRs and their ligands have in certain disease states and the accompanying initiation of specific signaling pathways. This review describes the role LDLRs, apoE and reelin have in the regulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity.