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Hippocampus. 2009 Aug;19(8):753-62. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20551.

Synaptic potentiation induces increased glial coverage of excitatory synapses in CA1 hippocampus.

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Department of Cytology, Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology, Kiev, Ukraine.


Patterns of activity that induce synaptic plasticity at excitatory synapses, such as long-term potentiation, result in structural remodeling of the postsynaptic spine, comprising an enlargement of the spine head and reorganization of the postsynaptic density (PSD). Furthermore, spine synapses represent complex functional units in which interaction between the presynaptic varicosity and the postsynaptic spine is also modulated by surrounding astroglial processes. To investigate how activity patterns could affect the morphological interplay between these three partners, we used an electron microscopic (EM) approach and 3D reconstructions of excitatory synapses to study the activity-related morphological changes underlying induction of synaptic potentiation by theta burst stimulation or brief oxygen/glucose deprivation episodes in hippocampal organotypic slice cultures. EM analyses demonstrated that the typical glia-synapse organization described in in vivo rat hippocampus is perfectly preserved and comparable in organotypic slice cultures. Three-dimensional reconstructions of synapses, classified as simple or complex depending upon PSD organization, showed significant changes following induction of synaptic potentiation using both protocols. The spine head volume and the area of the PSD significantly enlarged 30 min and 1 h after stimulation, particularly in large synapses with complex PSD, an effect that was associated with a concomitant enlargement of presynaptic terminals. Furthermore, synaptic activity induced a pronounced increase of the glial coverage of both pre- and postsynaptic structures, these changes being prevented by application of the NMDA receptor antagonist D-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid. These data reveal dynamic, activity-dependent interactions between glial processes and pre- and postsynaptic partners and suggest that glia can participate in activity-induced structural synapse remodeling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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