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Nature. 1992 May 21;357(6375):240-4.

Long-term potentiation is associated with increases in quantal content and quantal amplitude.

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0450.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission in CA1 neurons of the hippocampus, elicited by the conjunction of presynaptic firing and postsynaptic depolarization, is an important model of plasticity, which may underlie memory storage. Although induction of LTP takes place in the postsynaptic cell, it is not clear whether it is expressed through an enhancement of transmitter release or through an increased postsynaptic response to the same amount of transmitter. Analysis of the trial-to-trial amplitude fluctuations of synaptic signals, that is quantal analysis, gives an important insight into the probabilistic mechanisms of transmission, although attempts to apply it to the mode of expression of LTP have so far yielded inconsistent results, at least in part because they have relied on models of transmitter release that have not been confirmed experimentally. Here we report clear evidence for quantal fluctuation in a subset of cells. Induction of LTP in these cells causes abrupt increases in either quantal content or quantal amplitude, or both. This shows that two different mechanisms can underlie the maintenance of LTP.

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