Neocortical LTD via coincident activation of presynaptic NMDA and cannabinoid receptors

Neuron. 2003 Aug 14;39(4):641-54. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00476-8.


There is a consensus that NMDA receptors (NMDARs) detect coincident pre- and postsynaptic activity during induction of long-term potentiation (LTP), but their role in timing-dependent long-term depression (tLTD) is unclear. We examine tLTD in neocortical layer 5 (L5) pyramidal pairs and find that tLTD is expressed presynaptically, implying retrograde signaling. CB1 agonists produce depression that mimics and occludes tLTD. This agonist-induced LTD requires presynaptic activity and NMDAR activation, but not postsynaptic Ca(2+) influx. Further experiments demonstrate the existence of presynaptic NMDARs that underlie the presynaptic activity dependence. Finally, manipulating cannabinoid breakdown alters the temporal window for tLTD. In conclusion, tLTD requires simultaneous activation of presynaptic NMDA and CB1 receptors. This novel form of coincidence detection may explain the temporal window of tLTD and may also impart synapse specificity to cannabinoid retrograde signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / physiology*
  • Neocortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists
  • Receptors, Drug / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Receptors, Presynaptic / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Presynaptic