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J Neurochem. 2005 Aug;94(4):1158-66.

Insulin modulates hippocampal activity-dependent synaptic plasticity in a N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor and phosphatidyl-inositol-3-kinase-dependent manner.

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Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Insulin and its receptor are both present in the central nervous system and are implicated in neuronal survival and hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Here we show that insulin activates phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and protein kinase B (PKB), and results in an induction of long-term depression (LTD) in hippocampal CA1 neurones. Evaluation of the frequency-response curve of synaptic plasticity revealed that insulin induced LTD at 0.033 Hz and LTP at 10 Hz, whereas in the absence of insulin, 1 Hz induced LTD and 100 Hz induced LTP. LTD induction in the presence of insulin required low frequency synaptic stimulation (0.033 Hz) and blockade of GABAergic transmission. The LTD or LTP induced in the presence of insulin was N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor specific as it could be inhibited by alpha-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (APV), a specific NMDA receptor antagonist. LTD induction was also facilitated by lowering the extracellular Mg(2+) concentration, indicating an involvement of NMDA receptors. Inhibition of PI3K signalling or discontinuing synaptic stimulation also prevented this LTD. These results show that insulin modulates activity-dependent synaptic plasticity, which requires activation of NMDA receptors and the PI3K pathway. The results obtained provide a mechanistic link between insulin and synaptic plasticity, and explain how insulin functions as a neuromodulator.

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