Differences in the expression of AMPA and NMDA receptors between axospinous perforated and nonperforated synapses are related to the configuration and size of postsynaptic densities

J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jan 1;468(1):86-95. doi: 10.1002/cne.10950.


Axospinous synapses are traditionally divided according to postsynaptic density (PSD) configuration into a perforated subtype characterized by a complex-shaped PSD and nonperforated subtype exhibiting a simple-shaped, disc-like PSD. It has been hypothesized that perforated synapses are especially important for synaptic plasticity because they have a higher efficacy of impulse transmission. The aim of the present study was to test this hypothesis. The number of postsynaptic AMPA receptors (AMPARs) is widely regarded as the major determinant of synaptic efficacy. Therefore, the expression of AMPARs was evaluated in the two synaptic subtypes and compared with that of NMDA receptors (NMDARs). Postembedding immunogold electron microscopy was used to quantify the immunoreactivity following single labeling of AMPARs or NMDARs in serial sections through the CA1 stratum radiatum of adult rats. The results showed that all perforated synapses examined were immunopositive for AMPARs. In contrast, only a proportion of nonperforated synapses (64% on average) contained immunogold particles for AMPARs. The number of immunogold particles for AMPARs was markedly and significantly higher in perforated synapses than in immunopositive nonperforated synapses. Although all synapses of both subtypes were NMDAR immunopositive perforated synapses contained significantly more immunogold particles for NMDARs than nonperforated ones. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed that the mode of AMPAR and NMDAR expression is related to the complexity of PSD configuration, not only to PSD size. These findings support the notion that perforated synapses may evoke larger postsynaptic responses relative to nonperforated synapses and, hence, contribute to an enhancement of synaptic transmission associated with some forms of synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / chemistry*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Receptors, AMPA / analysis*
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / analysis*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Synapses / chemistry*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate