Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels are involved in action potential (AP) repolarization in excitable cells. Exogenous application of membrane-derived lipids, such as arachidonic acid (AA), regulates the gating of Kv channels. Whether membrane-derived lipids released under physiological conditions have an impact on neuronal coding through this mechanism is unknown. We show that AA released in an activity-dependent manner from postsynaptic hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells acts as retrograde messenger, inducing a robust facilitation of mossy fiber (Mf) synaptic transmission over several minutes. AA acts by broadening presynaptic APs through the direct modulation of Kv channels. This form of short-term plasticity can be triggered when postsynaptic cell fires with physiologically relevant patterns and sets the threshold for the induction of the presynaptic form of long-term potentiation (LTP) at hippocampal Mf synapses. Hence, direct modulation of presynaptic Kv channels by activity-dependent release of lipids serves as a physiological mechanism for tuning synaptic transmission.
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