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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18988-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0806979105. Epub 2008 Nov 19.

Transmitter-receptor mismatch in GABAergic synapses in the absence of activity.

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Department of Neuroscience and National Institute of Neuroscience-Italy, University of Turin, Corso Raffaello 30, 10125 Turin (I), Italy.


Competition among different axons to reach the somatodendritic region of the target neuron is an important event during development to achieve the final architecture typical of the mature brain. Trasmitter-receptor matching is a critical step for the signaling between neurons. In the cerebellar cortex, there is a persistent competition between the two glutamatergic inputs, the parallel fibers and the climbing fibers, for the innervation of the Purkinje cells. The activity of the latter input is necessary to maintain its own synaptic contacts on the proximal dendritic domain and to confine the parallel fibers in the distal one. Here, we show that climbing fiber activity also limits the distribution of the GABAergic input in the proximal domain. In addition, blocking the activity by tetrodotoxin infusion in Wistar rat cerebellum, a synapse made by GABAergic terminals onto the recently formed Purkinje cell spines appear in the proximal dendrites. The density of GABAergic terminals is increased, and unexpected double symmetric/asymmetric postsynaptic densities add to the typical symmetric phenotype of the GABAergic shaft synapses. Moreover, glutamate receptors appear in these ectopic synapses even in the absence of glutamate transmitter inside the presynaptic terminal and close to GABA receptors. These results suggest that the Purkinje cell has an intrinsic tendency to develop postsynaptic assemblies of excitatory types, including glutamate receptors, over the entire dendritic territory. GABA receptors are induced in these assemblies when contacted by GABAergic terminals, thus leading to the formation of hybrid synapses.

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