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Brain Res. 1992 Jan 13;569(2):341-7.

Increase in the number of axospinous synapses with segmented postsynaptic densities following hippocampal kindling.

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Department of CMS Biology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL 60611.


Kindling results from intermittent electrical stimulation of a local brain region and leads to a virtually permanent augmentation of synaptic responsiveness in the stimulated circuit. It has been hypothesized that an increase in the number of synapses may represent a structural basis for the enduring expression of synaptic plasticity following kindling, but such an alteration has not been demonstrated unequivocally. The present report provides evidence that hippocampal kindling is indeed accompanied by an increase in synaptic numbers. Young adult rats were kindled via medial perforant path stimulation and sacrificed 4 weeks after reaching a criterion of 5 generalized seizures. Stimulated but not kindled and implanted but not stimulated rats served as controls. Synapses were analyzed in the middle (MML) and inner (IML) molecular layer of the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Using the stereological disector technique, unbiased estimates of the number of synapses per neuron were differentially obtained for 3 morphological subtypes of perforated axospinous synapses characterized by a fenestrated, horseshoe-shaped or segmented postsynaptic density (PSD). A significant increase in synaptic numbers was found to selectively involve only those perforated synapses which are distinguished by a segmented PSD consisting of 2-5 discrete plates. This structural modification was restricted to the terminal synaptic field of stimulated axons (MML), but was not observed in an immediately adjacent synaptic field (IML) which was not directly stimulated during kindling. Since synapses distinguished by a segmented PSD may represent specialized synaptic contacts of an unusually high efficacy, a selective increase in their numbers is likely to provide a structural substrate of the augmented synaptic gain associated with kindling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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