Alterations in the properties of neonatal thalamocortical synapses with time in in vitro slices

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 8;12(2):e0171897. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171897. eCollection 2017.


New synapses are constantly being generated and lost in the living brain with only a subset of these being stabilized to form an enduring component of neuronal circuitry. The properties of synaptic transmission have primarily been established in a variety of in vitro neuronal preparations. It is not clear, however, if newly-formed and persistent synapses contribute to the results of these studies consistently throughout the lifespan of these preparations. In neonatal somatosensory, barrel, cortex we have previously hypothesized that a population of thalamocortical synapses displaying unusually slow kinetics represent newly-formed, default-transient synapses. This clear phenotype would provide an ideal tool to investigate if such newly formed synapses consistently contribute to synaptic transmission throughout a normal experimental protocol. We show that the proportion of synapses recorded in vitro displaying slow kinetics decreases with time after brain slice preparation. However, slow synapses persist in vitro in the presence of either minocycline, an inhibitor of microglia-mediated synapse elimination, or the TrkB agonist 7,8-dihydroxyflavone a promoter of synapse formation. These findings show that the observed properties of synaptic transmission may systematically change with time in vitro in a standard brain slice preparation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Flavones / pharmacology
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Receptor, trkB / agonists
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Thalamus / physiology*


  • 6,7-dihydroxyflavone
  • Flavones
  • Receptor, trkB