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Proc Biol Sci. 1990 Aug 22;241(1301):116-21.

Excitatory synaptic currents in Purkinje cells.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0444.


The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA classes of glutamate receptor combine in many regions of the central nervous system to form a dual-component excitatory postsynaptic current. Non-NMDA receptors mediate synaptic transmission at the resting potential, whereas NMDA receptors contribute during periods of postsynaptic depolarization and play a role in the generation of long-term synaptic potentiation. To investigate the receptor types underlying excitatory synaptic transmission in the cerebellum, we have recorded excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCS), by using whole-cell techniques, from Purkinje cells in adult rat cerebellar slices. Stimulation in the white matter or granule-cell layer resulted in an all-or-none synaptic current as a result of climbing-fibre activation. Stimulation in the molecular layer caused a graded synaptic current, as expected for activation of parallel fibres. When the parallel fibres were stimulated twice at an interval of 40 ms, the second EPSC was facilitated; similar paired-pulse stimulation of the climbing fibre resulted in a depression of the second EPSC. Both parallel-fibre and climbing-fibre responses exhibited linear current-voltage relations. At a holding potential of -40 mV or in the nominal absence of Mg2+ these synaptic responses were unaffected by the NMDA receptor antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV), but were blocked by the non-NMDA receptor antagonist 6-cyano-2,3-dihydro-7-nitroquinoxalinedione (CNQX). NMDA applied to the bath failed to evoke an inward current, whereas aspartate or glutamate induced a substantial current; this current was, however, largely reduced by CNQX, indicating that non-NMDA receptors mediate this response. These results indicate that both types of excitatory input to adult Purkinje cells are mediated exclusively by glutamate receptors of the non-NMDA type, and that these cells entirely lack NMDA receptors.

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