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Learn Mem. 2012 Aug 16;19(9):391-400. doi: 10.1101/lm.025304.111.

New insights into the regulation of synaptic plasticity from an unexpected place: hippocampal area CA2.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


The search for molecules that restrict synaptic plasticity in the brain has focused primarily on sensory systems during early postnatal development, as critical periods for inducing plasticity in sensory regions are easily defined. The recent discovery that Schaffer collateral inputs to hippocampal area CA2 do not readily support canonical activity-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) serves as a reminder that the capacity for synaptic modification is also regulated anatomically across different brain regions. Hippocampal CA2 shares features with other similarly "LTP-resistant" brain areas in that many of the genes linked to synaptic function and the associated proteins known to restrict synaptic plasticity are expressed there. Add to this a rich complement of receptors and signaling molecules permissive for induction of atypical forms of synaptic potentiation, and area CA2 becomes an ideal model system for studying specific modulators of brain plasticity. Additionally, recent evidence suggests that hippocampal CA2 is instrumental for certain forms of learning, memory, and social behavior, but the links between CA2-enriched molecules and putative CA2-dependent behaviors are only just beginning to be made. In this review, we offer a detailed look at what is currently known about the synaptic plasticity in this important, yet largely overlooked component of the hippocampus and consider how the study of CA2 may provide clues to understanding the molecular signals critical to the modulation of synaptic function in different brain regions and across different stages of development.

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