Purkinje cell NMDA receptors assume a key role in synaptic gain control in the mature cerebellum

J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 10;30(45):15330-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4344-10.2010.


A classic view in cerebellar physiology holds that Purkinje cells do not express functional NMDA receptors and that, therefore, postsynaptic NMDA receptors are not involved in the induction of long-term depression (LTD) at parallel fiber (PF) to Purkinje cell synapses. Recently, it has been demonstrated that functional NMDA receptors are postsynaptically expressed at climbing fiber (CF) to Purkinje cell synapses in mice, reaching full expression levels at ∼2 months after birth. Here, we show that in the mature mouse cerebellum LTD (induced by paired PF and CF activation), but not long-term potentiation (LTP; PF stimulation alone) at PF to Purkinje cell synapses is blocked by bath application of the NMDA receptor antagonist D-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (D-APV). A blockade of LTD, but not LTP, was also observed when the noncompetitive NMDA channel blocker MK-801 was added to the patch-pipette saline, suggesting that postsynaptically expressed NMDA receptors are required for LTD induction. Using confocal calcium imaging, we show that CF-evoked calcium transients in dendritic spines are reduced in the presence of D-APV. This observation confirms that NMDA receptor signaling occurs at CF synapses and suggests that NMDA receptor-mediated calcium transients at the CF input site might contribute to LTD induction. Finally, we performed dendritic patch-clamp recordings from rat Purkinje cells. Dendritically recorded CF responses were reduced when D-APV was bath applied. Together, these data suggest that the late developmental expression of postsynaptic NMDA receptors at CF synapses onto Purkinje cells is associated with a switch toward an NMDA receptor-dependent LTD induction mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*


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