Sensory experience orchestrates the development of cortical circuitry by adaptively modifying neurotransmission and synaptic connectivity. However, the mechanisms underlying these experience-dependent modifications remain elusive. Here we demonstrate that visual experience suppresses a presynaptic NMDA receptor (preNMDAR)-mediated form of timing-dependent long-term depression (tLTD) at visual cortex layer (L) 4-2/3 synapses. This tLTD can be maintained during development, or reinstated in adulthood, by sensory deprivation. The changes in tLTD are mirrored by changes in glutamate release; visual deprivation enhances both tLTD and glutamate release. These effects require the GluN3A NMDAR subunit, the levels of which are increased by visual deprivation. Further, by coupling the pathway-specific optogenetic induction of tLTD with cell-type-specific NMDAR deletion, we find that visual experience modifies preNMDAR-mediated plasticity specifically at L4-L2/3 synapses.
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