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Nat Neurosci. 2005 Jun;8(6):776-81. Epub 2005 May 1.

Endocannabinoid signaling depends on the spatial pattern of synapse activation.

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Department of Physiology, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.


The brain's endocannabinoid retrograde messenger system decreases presynaptic transmitter release, but its physiological function is uncertain. We show that endocannabinoid signaling is absent when spatially dispersed synapses are activated on rodent cerebellar Purkinje cells but that it reduces presynaptic glutamate release when nearby synapses are active. This switching of signaling according to the spatial pattern of activity is controlled by postsynaptic type I metabotropic glutamate receptors, which are activated disproportionately when glutamate spillover between synapses produces synaptic crosstalk. When spatially distributed synapses are activated, endocannabinoid inhibition of transmitter release can be rescued by inhibiting glutamate uptake to increase glutamate spillover. Endocannabinoid signaling initiated by type I metabotropic glutamate receptors is a homeostatic mechanism that detects synaptic crosstalk and downregulates glutamate release in order to promote synaptic independence.

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