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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2006 Feb;27(2):78-84. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

The role of the endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ store in the plasticity of central neurons.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3QT, UK.


The smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) is a well-characterized buffer and source of Ca2+ in both axonal and dendritic compartments of neurons. Ca2+ release from the SER can be evoked by stimulation of the ryanodine receptor or the inositol (1,4,5)-trisphosphate [Ins(1,4,5)P3] receptor. Both receptors can couple to the activation of neurotransmitter-gated receptors and voltage-gated Ca2+ channels on the plasma membrane, thus enabling the SER to discriminate between different types of neuronal activity. In axonal terminals, Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR) mediates spontaneous, evoked and facilitated neurotransmission. Store release might also regulate the mobilization and recycling of synaptic vesicles. In the dendritic compartment, the distribution of Ins(1,4,5)P3 receptors and ryanodine receptors influences the intracellular encoding of neuronal activity. Thus, the functionality of the Ca2+ store can affect both the polarity and the spatial extent of Ca2+-dependent shifts in synaptic efficacy. In hippocampal neurons, for example, CICR in the spine heads underlies homosynaptic plasticity, whereas heterosynaptic plasticity is mediated by Ins(1,4,5)P3-dependent Ca2+ signalling. Purkinje neurons primarily express Ins(1,4,5)P3 receptors in the spine heads, and long-term depression of synaptic efficacy is crucially dependent on Ins(1,4,5)P3.

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