Presynaptic ultrastructural plasticity along CA3→CA1 axons during long-term potentiation in mature hippocampus

J Comp Neurol. 2013 Dec 1;521(17):3898-912. doi: 10.1002/cne.23384.


In area CA1 of the mature hippocampus, synaptogenesis occurs within 30 minutes after the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP); however, by 2 hours many small dendritic spines are lost, and those remaining have larger synapses. Little is known, however, about associated changes in presynaptic vesicles and axonal boutons. Axons in CA1 stratum radiatum were evaluated with 3D reconstructions from serial section electron microscopy at 30 minutes and 2 hours after induction of LTP by theta-burst stimulation (TBS). The frequency of axonal boutons with a single postsynaptic partner was decreased by 33% at 2 hours, corresponding perfectly to the 33% loss specifically of small dendritic spines (head diameters <0.45 μm). Docked vesicles were reduced at 30 minutes and then returned to control levels by 2 hours following induction of LTP. By 2 hours there were fewer small synaptic vesicles overall in the presynaptic vesicle pool. Clathrin-mediated endocytosis was used as a marker of local activity, and axonal boutons containing clathrin-coated pits showed a more pronounced decrease in presynaptic vesicles at both 30 minutes and 2 hours after induction of LTP relative to control values. Putative transport packets, identified as a cluster of less than 10 axonal vesicles occurring between synaptic boutons, were stable at 30 minutes but markedly reduced by 2 hours after the induction of LTP. APV blocked these effects, suggesting that the loss of axonal boutons and presynaptic vesicles was dependent on N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor activation during LTP. These findings show that specific presynaptic ultrastructural changes complement postsynaptic ultrastructural plasticity during LTP.

Keywords: 3D reconstruction; axonal boutons; docked vesicles; hippocampal slice; serial section electron microscopy; synaptic vesicles; vesicle pools.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / ultrastructure
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / ultrastructure
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans