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J Physiol. 2008 Mar 15;586(6):1475-80. Epub 2007 Dec 20.

Regulation of synaptic signalling by postsynaptic, non-glutamate receptor ion channels.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 220 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Activation of glutamatergic synapses onto pyramidal neurons produces a synaptic depolarization as well as a buildup of intracellular calcium (Ca(2+)). The synaptic depolarization propagates through the dendritic arbor and can be detected at the soma with a recording electrode. Current influx through AMPA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs) provides the depolarizing drive, and the amplitudes of synaptic potentials are generally thought to reflect the number and properties of these receptors at each synapse. In contrast, synaptically evoked Ca(2+) transients are limited to the spine containing the active synapse and result primarily from Ca(2+) influx through NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs). Here we review recent studies that reveal that both synaptic depolarizations and spine head Ca(2+) transients are strongly regulated by the activity of postsynaptic, non-glutamate receptor ion channels. In hippocampal pyramidal neurons, voltage- and Ca(2+)-gated ion channels located in dendritic spines open as downstream consequences of glutamate receptor activation and act within a complex signalling loop that feeds back to regulate synaptic signals. Dynamic regulation of these ion channels offers a powerful mechanism of synaptic plasticity that is independent of direct modulation of glutamate receptors.

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