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Neuron. 2006 Apr 6;50(1):75-88.

Synaptic AMPA receptor exchange maintains bidirectional plasticity.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.


Activity-dependent synaptic delivery of GluR1-, GluR2L-, and GluR4-containing AMPA receptors (-Rs) and removal of GluR2-containing AMPA-Rs mediate synaptic potentiation and depression, respectively. The obvious puzzle is how synapses maintain the capacity for bidirectional plasticity if different AMPA-Rs are utilized for potentiation and depression. Here, we show that synaptic AMPA-R exchange is essential for maintaining the capacity for bidirectional plasticity. The exchange process consists of activity-independent synaptic removal of GluR1-, GluR2L-, or GluR4-containing AMPA-Rs and refilling with GluR2-containing AMPA-Rs at hippocampal and cortical synapses in vitro and in intact brains. In GluR1 and GluR2 knockout mice, initiation or completion of synaptic AMPA-R exchange is compromised, respectively. The complementary AMPA-R removal and refilling events in the exchange process ultimately maintain synaptic strength unchanged, but their long rate time constants ( approximately 15-18 hr) render transmission temporarily depressed in the middle of the exchange. These results suggest that the previously hypothesized "slot" proteins, rather than AMPA-Rs, code and maintain transmission efficacy at central synapses.

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