Cholinergic input uncouples Ca2+ changes from K+ conductance activation and amplifies intradendritic Ca2+ changes in hippocampal neurons

Neuron. 1991 Jun;6(6):901-5. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(91)90230-w.


Muscarinic synaptic activation is known to be involved in cortical arousal as well as learning. Although simple increases in the electrical responsiveness of neurons might be the basis of arousal, the linkage of muscarinic transmission to the synaptic plasticity that might underlie learning is lacking. Most models of synaptic plasticity involve postsynaptic Ca2+ changes as a trigger for subsequent processes. We imaged muscarinic effects on free Ca2+ accumulation during intracellular recordings from CA3 pyramidal neurons in the guinea pig hippocampal slice. Muscarinic activation, either by repetitive stimulation of cholinergic fibers or by bath-applied carbachol, strongly increased intradendritic Ca2+ accumulation during directly evoked repetitive firing, in part by blocking a Ca(2+)-dependent K+ conductance. The effects of repetitive stimulation of cholinergic fibers were enhanced by the acetylcholine-esterase blocker eserine and blocked by the muscarinic antagonist atropine. These findings demonstrate a novel muscarinic reinforcement of Ca2+ changes during excitation, which are probably significant for synapse modification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atropine / pharmacology*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Carbachol / pharmacology*
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Fura-2
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Physostigmine / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels / drug effects
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / physiology*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Potassium Channels
  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Atropine
  • Carbachol
  • Physostigmine
  • Calcium
  • Fura-2