Retinoic acid (RA)-dependent homeostatic plasticity and NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP), a form of Hebbian plasticity, both enhance synaptic strength by increasing the abundance of postsynaptic AMPA receptors (AMPARs). However, it is unclear whether the molecular mechanisms mediating AMPAR trafficking during homeostatic and Hebbian plasticity differ, and it is unknown how RA signaling impacts Hebbian plasticity. Here, we show that RA increases postsynaptic AMPAR abundance using an activity-dependent mechanism that requires a unique SNARE (soluble NSF-attachment protein receptor)-dependent fusion machinery different from that mediating LTP. Specifically, RA-induced AMPAR trafficking did not involve complexin, which activates SNARE complexes containing syntaxin-1 or -3, but not complexes containing syntaxin-4, whereas LTP required complexin. Moreover, RA-induced AMPAR trafficking utilized the Q-SNARE syntaxin-4, whereas LTP utilized syntaxin-3; both additionally required the Q-SNARE SNAP-47 and the R-SNARE synatobrevin-2. Finally, acute RA treatment blocked subsequent LTP expression, probably by increasing AMPAR trafficking. Thus, RA-induced homeostatic plasticity involves a novel, activity-dependent postsynaptic AMPAR-trafficking pathway mediated by a unique SNARE-dependent fusion machinery.
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