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Curr Biol. 2002 Feb 5;12(3):181-90.

Contactin supports synaptic plasticity associated with hippocampal long-term depression but not potentiation.

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The Burnham Institute, Neurobiology Program, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.



Changes in synaptic efficacy are believed to mediate the processes of learning and memory formation. Accumulating evidence implicates cell adhesion molecules in activity-dependent synaptic modifications associated with long-term potentiation (LTP); however, there is no precedence for the selective role of this molecule class in long-term depression (LTD). The mechanisms that modulate these processes still remain unclear.


We report a novel role for glycosylphosphatidyl inositol (GPI)-anchored contactin in hippocampal CA1 synaptic plasticity. Contactin selectively supports paired-pulse facilitation (PPF) and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor-dependent LTD but is not required for synaptic morphology, basal transmission, or LTP. Molecular analyses indicate that contactin is essential for the membrane and synaptic targeting of the contactin-associated protein (Caspr/paranodin) and for the proper distribution of a presumptive ligand, receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase beta (RPTPbeta)/phosphacan.


These results indicate that contactin plays a selective role in synaptic plasticity and identify PPF and LTD, but not LTP, as contactin-dependent processes. Engagement of the contactin-Caspr complex with RPTPbeta may thus regulate cell-cell interactions contributing to specific synaptic plasticity forms.

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