Postsynaptic hyperpolarization increases the strength of AMPA-mediated synaptic transmission at large synapses between mossy fibers and CA3 pyramidal cells

Neuropharmacology. 2000 Sep;39(12):2288-301. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3908(00)00076-9.


In chemical synapses information flow is polarized. However, the postsynaptic cells can affect transmitter release via retrograde chemical signaling. Here we explored the hypothesis that, in large synapses, having large synaptic cleft resistance, transmitter release can be enhanced by electrical (ephaptic) signaling due to depolarization of the presynaptic release site induced by the excitatory postsynaptic current itself. The hypothesis predicts that, in such synapses, postsynaptic hyperpolarization would increase response amplitudes "supralinearly", i.e. stronger than predicted from the driving force shift. We found supralinear increases in the amplitude of minimal excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) during hyperpolarization of CA3 pyramidal neurons. Failure rate, paired-pulse facilitation, coefficient of variation of the EPSP amplitude and EPSP quantal content were also modified. The effects were especially strong on mossy fiber EPSPs (MF-EPSPs) mediated by the activation of large synapses and identified pharmacologically or by their kinetics. The effects were weaker on commissural fiber EPSPs mediated by smaller and more remote synapses. Even spontaneous membrane potential fluctuations were associated with supralinear MF-EPSP increases and failure rate reduction. The results suggest the existence of a novel mechanism for retrograde control of synaptic efficacy from postsynaptic membrane potential and are consistent with the ephaptic feedback hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mossy Fibers, Hippocampal / drug effects*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Pyramidal Cells / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synapses / drug effects*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid