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Neuron. 2009 Nov 12;64(3):391-403. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.10.021.

Astrocyte-mediated distributed plasticity at hypothalamic glutamate synapses.

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Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.


Afferent activity can induce fast, feed-forward changes in synaptic efficacy that are synapse specific. Using combined electrophysiology, caged molecule photolysis, and Ca(2+) imaging, we describe a plasticity in which the recruitment of astrocytes in response to afferent activity causes a fast and feed-forward, yet distributed increase in the amplitude of quantal synaptic currents at multiple glutamate synapses on magnocellular neurosecretory cells in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus. The plasticity is largely multiplicative, consistent with a proportional increase or "scaling" in the strength of all synapses on the neuron. This effect requires a metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated rise in Ca(2+) in the astrocyte processes surrounding the neuron and the release of the gliotransmitter ATP, which acts on postsynaptic purinergic receptors. These data provide evidence for a form of distributed synaptic plasticity that is feed-forward, expressed quickly, and mediated by the synaptic activation of neighboring astrocytes.

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