Synaptic plasticity is impaired in rats with a low glutathione content

Synapse. 2000 Dec 15;38(4):369-74. doi: 10.1002/1098-2396(20001215)38:4<369::AID-SYN1>3.0.CO;2-Q.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a sustained increase in the efficacy of synaptic transmission, based on functional changes involving pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms, and has been considered a cellular model for learning and memory. The sulphurated tripeptide glutathione acts as a powerful antioxidant agent within the nervous system. Recent in vitro studies suggest that the cellular redox status might influence the mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity. It is not known, however, how glutathione depletion might affect LTP. In the present study, we evaluated the input-output relationships, LTP, and paired-pulse interactions in rats with low glutathione levels induced by systemic injection of diethylmaleate. Our results in anesthetized rats show that the basic synaptic transmission between the perforant pathway and the dentate gyrus granule cells was not affected by glutathione depletion. However, in the same synapses it was not possible to induce prolonged changes in synaptic efficacy (LTP). Paired-pulse facilitation was also absent in the treated animals, suggesting an impairment of short-term synaptic interactions. These findings indicate that low content of glutathione can impair short-term and long-term mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and stress the importance of the redox balance in the normal function of brain circuitry.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Glutathione / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Injections
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Maleates / pharmacology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Maleates
  • diethyl maleate
  • Glutathione