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Brain Res Bull. 2012 Jan 4;87(1):21-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2011.10.011. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Acute neuregulin-1 signaling influences AMPA receptor mediated responses in cultured cerebellar granule neurons.

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Department of Biology/Toxicology, 401 College Avenue, Ashland University, Ashland, OH 44805, USA.


Neuregulin-1 (NRG1) is a trophic and differentiation factor that signals through ErbB receptor tyrosine kinases to regulate nervous system development. Previous studies have demonstrated that NRG1 affects plasticity at glutamatergic synapses in principal glutamatergic neurons of the hippocampus and frontal cortex; however, immunohistochemical and genetic analyses strongly suggest these effects are indirect and mediated via ErbB4 receptors on GABAergic interneurons. Here, we used cultured cerebellar granule cells (CGCs) that express ErbB4 to analyze the cell-autonomous effects of NRG1 stimulation on glutamatergic function. These cultures have the advantage that they are relatively homogenous and consist primarily of granule neurons that express ErbB4. We show that acute NRG1 treatment does not affect whole-cell AMPA or NMDA receptor (NMDAR) mediated currents in CGCs at 10-12 days in vitro. NRG1 also does not affect the frequency or amplitude of spontaneous AMPAR or NMDAR mediated miniature excitatory post-synaptic currents (mEPSCs). To further investigate the effects of NRG1 on activity-dependent plasticity of glutamatergic synapses in CGCs, we characterized the effects of high-glyine/0 Mg(2+) (which activates synaptic NMDARs) on AMPAR-mEPSC frequency and amplitude. We show that high-glycine induces a form of chemical long-term potentiation (chemLTP) in CGCs characterized by an increase in AMPAR-mEPSC frequency but not amplitude. Moreover, NRG1 induces a decrease in AMPAR-mEPSC frequency following chemLTP, but does not affect AMPAR-mEPSC amplitude. CGCs in our cultures conditions express low levels of GluR1, in contrast to dissociated hippocampal cultures, but do express the long isoform of GluR4. This study provides first evidence that (1) high-glycine can induce plasticity at glutamatergic synapses in CGCs, and (2) that acute NRG1/ErbB-signaling can regulate glutamatergic plasticity in CGCs. Taken together with previous reports, our results suggest that, similar to Schaeffer collateral to CA1 synapses, NRG1 effects are activity dependent and mediated via modulation of synaptic AMPARs.

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