Brain extracellular matrix retains connectivity in neuronal networks

Sci Rep. 2015 Sep 29;5:14527. doi: 10.1038/srep14527.


The formation and maintenance of connectivity are critically important for the processing and storage of information in neuronal networks. The brain extracellular matrix (ECM) appears during postnatal development and surrounds most neurons in the adult mammalian brain. Importantly, the removal of the ECM was shown to improve plasticity and post-traumatic recovery in the CNS, but little is known about the mechanisms. Here, we investigated the role of the ECM in the regulation of the network activity in dissociated hippocampal cultures grown on microelectrode arrays (MEAs). We found that enzymatic removal of the ECM in mature cultures led to transient enhancement of neuronal activity, but prevented disinhibition-induced hyperexcitability that was evident in age-matched control cultures with intact ECM. Furthermore, the ECM degradation followed by disinhibition strongly affected the network interaction so that it strongly resembled the juvenile pattern seen in naïve developing cultures. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the ECM plays an important role in retention of existing connectivity in mature neuronal networks that can be exerted through synaptic confinement of glutamate. On the other hand, removal of the ECM can play a permissive role in modification of connectivity and adaptive exploration of novel network architecture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't