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J Neurosci. 2013 Oct 2;33(40):15669-74. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2588-13.2013.

Chronic stress induces a selective decrease in AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic excitation at hippocampal temporoammonic-CA1 synapses.

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Department of Physiology, Department of Psychiatry, Programs in Neuroscience and Membrane Biology, Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, and Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's College of Maryland, St. Mary's City, Maryland 20686.


Chronic stress promotes depression, but how it disrupts cognition and mood remains unknown. Chronic stress causes atrophy of pyramidal cell dendrites in the hippocampus and cortex in human and animal models, and a depressive-like behavioral state. We now test the hypothesis that excitatory temporoammonic (TA) synapses in the distal dendrites of CA1 pyramidal cells in rats are altered by chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) and restored by chronic antidepressant treatment, in conjunction with the behavioral consequences of CUS. We observed a decrease in AMPAR-mediated excitation at TA-CA1 synapses, but not Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses, after CUS, with a corresponding layer-specific decrease in GluA1 expression. Both changes were reversed by chronic fluoxetine. CUS also disrupted long-term memory consolidation in the Morris water maze, a function of TA-CA1 synapses. The decreases in TA-CA1 AMPAR-mediated excitation and performance in the consolidation test were correlated positively with decreases in sucrose preference, a measure of anhedonia. We conclude that chronic stress selectively decreases AMPAR number and function at specific synapses and suggest that this underlies various depressive endophenotypes. Our findings provide evidence that glutamatergic dysfunction is an underlying cause of depression and that current first-line antidepressant drugs act by restoring excitatory synaptic strength. Our findings suggest novel therapeutic targets for this debilitating disease.

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