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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Jun;19(11):2953-66.

Neuronal activation of Ras regulates synaptic connectivity.

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1
Paul Flechsig Institute of Brain Research, Department of Neuroanatomy, University of Leipzig, D-04109 Leipzig, Germany. aret@medizin.uni-leipzig.de

Abstract

A synRas mouse model was used expressing constitutively activated Ha-Ras (Val12 mutation) in neurons to investigate the role of Ras-MAPkinase signalling for neuronal connectivity in adult brain. Expression of the transgene in the cortex of these mice starts after neuronal differentiation is completed and allows to directly investigate the effects of enhanced Ras activity in differentiated neurons. Activation of Ha-Ras induced an increase in soma size which was sensitive to MEK inhibitor in postnatal organotypic cultures. Adult cortical pyramidal neurons showed complex structural rearrangements associated with an increased size and ramification of dendritic arborization. Dendritic spine density was elevated and correlated with a twofold increase in number of synapses. In acute brain slices of the somatosensory and of the visual cortex, extracellular field potentials were recorded from layer II/III neurons. The input-output relation of synaptically evoked field potentials revealed a significantly higher basal excitability of the transgenic mice cortex compared to wild-type animals. In whole cell patch clamp preparations, the frequency of AMPA receptor-mediated spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents was increased while the ratio between NMDA and AMPA-receptor mediated signal amplitude was unchanged. A pronounced depression of paired pulse facilitation indicated that Ras contributes to changes at the presynaptic site. Furthermore, synRas mice showed an increased synaptic long-term potentiation, which was sensitive to blockers of NMDA-receptors and of MEK. We conclude that neuronal Ras is a common switch of plasticity in adult mammalian brain sculpturing neuronal architecture and synaptic connectivity in concert with tuning synaptic efficacy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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