Arachidonic acid induces a long-term activity-dependent enhancement of synaptic transmission in the hippocampus

Nature. 1989 Oct 26;341(6244):739-42. doi: 10.1038/341739a0.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a widely studied model of the synaptic basis of information storage in the mammalian brain. The induction of LTP is triggered by the postsynaptic entry of calcium through the channel associated with the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, whereas its maintenance is mediated, at least in part, by presynaptic mechanisms. To explain how postsynaptic events can lead to an increase in transmitter release, we have postulated the existence of a retrograde messenger to carry information from the postsynaptic side of the synapse to recently active presynaptic terminals. Candidates for a retrograde messenger include arachidonic acid or one of its lipoxygenase metabolites. Here we report that weak activation of the perforant path, when given in the presence of arachidonic acid, leads to a slow-onset persistent increase in synaptic efficacy both in vivo and in vitro. The activity-dependent potentiation thus produced is accompanied by an increase in the release of glutamate, and is non-additive with tetanus-induced LTP. These observations indicate a role for arachidonic acid as a retrograde messenger in the later, but not the initial, stages of LTP.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Glutamates / analysis
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / analysis
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Tetanus Toxin / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Glutamates
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Tetanus Toxin
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate