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Neuron. 2010 Dec 9;68(5):936-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.09.004.

M1 muscarinic receptors boost synaptic potentials and calcium influx in dendritic spines by inhibiting postsynaptic SK channels.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Acetylcholine release and activation of muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAChRs) enhance synaptic plasticity in vitro and cognition and memory in vivo. Within the hippocampus, mAChRs promote NMDA-type glutamate receptor-dependent forms of long-term potentiation. Here, we use calcium (Ca) imaging combined with two-photon laser glutamate uncaging at apical spines of CA1 pyramidal neurons to examine postsynaptic mechanisms of muscarinic modulation of glutamatergic transmission. Uncaging-evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials and Ca transients are increased by muscarinic stimulation; however, this is not due to direct modulation of glutamate receptors. Instead, mAChRs modulate a negative feedback loop in spines that normally suppresses synaptic signals. mAChR activation reduces the Ca sensitivity of small conductance Ca-activated potassium (SK) channels that are found in the spine, resulting in increased synaptic potentials and Ca transients. These effects are mediated by M1-type muscarinic receptors and occur in a casein kinase-2-dependent manner. Thus, muscarinic modulation regulates synaptic transmission by tuning the activity of nonglutamatergic postsynaptic ion channels.

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