Long-term potentiation: peeling the onion

Neuropharmacology. 2013 Nov;74:18-22. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.02.010. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


Since the discovery of long-term potentiation (LTP), thousands of papers have been published on this phenomenon. With this massive amount of information, it is often difficult, especially for someone not directly involved in the field, not to be overwhelmed. The goal of this review is to peel away as many layers as possible, and probe the core properties of LTP. We would argue that the many dozens of proteins that have been implicated in the phenomenon are not essential, but rather modulate, often in indirect ways, the threshold and/or magnitude of LTP. What is required is NMDA receptor activation followed by CaMKII activation. The consequence of CaMKII activation is the rapid recruitment of AMPA receptors to the synapse. This recruitment is independent of AMPA receptor subunit type, but absolutely requires an adequate pool of surface receptors. An important unresolved issue is how exactly CaMKII activation leads to modifications in the PSD to allow rapid enrichment. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'Glutamate Receptor-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity'.

Keywords: AMPA receptor; CaMKII; Long-term potentiation; NMDA receptor; Synapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2 / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Post-Synaptic Density / metabolism
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Type 2