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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jan 2;284(1):174-81. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M807431200. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

In vivo modulation of O-GlcNAc levels regulates hippocampal synaptic plasticity through interplay with phosphorylation.

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Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102, USA.


O-Linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is a cytosolic and nuclear carbohydrate post-translational modification most abundant in brain. We recently reported uniquely extensive O-GlcNAc modification of proteins that function in synaptic vesicle release and post-synaptic signal transduction. Here we examined potential roles for O-GlcNAc in mouse hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity. O-GlcNAc modifications and the enzyme catalyzing their addition (O-GlcNAc transferase) were enriched in hippocampal synaptosomes. Pharmacological elevation or reduction of O-GlcNAc levels had no effect on Schaffer collateral CA1 basal hippocampal synaptic transmission. However, in vivo elevation of O-GlcNAc levels enhanced long term potentiation (LTP), an electrophysiological correlate to some forms of learning/memory. Reciprocally, pharmacological reduction of O-GlcNAc levels blocked LTP. Additionally, elevated O-GlcNAc led to reduced paired-pulse facilitation, a form of short term plasticity attributed to presynaptic mechanisms. Synapsin I and II are presynaptic proteins that increase synaptic vesicle availability for release when phosphorylated, thus contributing to hippocampal synaptic plasticity. Synapsins are among the most extensively O-GlcNAc-modified proteins known. Elevating O-GlcNAc levels increased phosphorylation of Synapsin I/II at serine 9 (cAMP-dependent protein kinase substrate site), serine 62/67 (Erk 1/2 (MAPK 1/2) substrate site), and serine 603 (calmodulin kinase II site). Activation-specific phosphorylation events on Erk 1/2 and calmodulin kinase II, two proteins required for CA1 hippocampal LTP establishment, were increased in response to elevation of O-GlcNAc levels. Thus, O-GlcNAc is a novel regulatory signaling component of excitatory synapses, with specific roles in synaptic plasticity that involve interplay with phosphorylation.

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