Changes in the numerical density of synaptic contacts with long-term potentiation in the hippocampal dentate gyrus

J Comp Neurol. 1986 Nov 22;253(4):466-75. doi: 10.1002/cne.902530404.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) in the rat dentate gyrus is a multifaceted phenomenon, including synaptic potentiation; simultaneous synaptic depression at neighboring, unconditioned synapses; and a change in the amount of cell firing produced by a specified amount of synaptic current (see Levy and Desmond: In G. Buzsaki and C. Vanderwolf (eds): Electrical Activity of The Archicortex. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, pp. 359-373, '85b). This study presents long-term anatomical modifications that seem related to excitatory synaptic modification. These anatomical alterations appear early and persist for at least 60 minutes following conditioning stimulation. Each animal received test pulse stimulation delivered alternately to the angular bundles before and after brief, unilateral high-frequency conditioning stimulation that is typical of many LTP paradigms. Anatomical preparation followed standard procedures. Double-blind scoring procedures quantified the number of asymmetric synapses in the dentate molecular layer. These counts were converted to the number of synapses per unit volume using stereological corrections that combined geometrically derived theory and modest serial sectioning. Multivariate analysis of variance evaluated the statistical significance of changes in synapse density. Across all three groups of animals, conditioning stimulation does not significantly change the density of synaptic contacts across the entire molecular layer. There is a trend for a decreased density of synaptic contacts in the middle molecular layer, the region activated by the conditioning stimulation. Here the density of concave spine profiles increases significantly in all three groups of animals with conditioning stimulation. This increase accompanies significant decreases in the density of nonconcave, simple and ellipsoid, spine profiles. No significant changes in the density of shaft synapses occur with LTP-inducing conditioning stimulation. These data suggest that the concave spine profiles are a correlate of LTP-inducing stimulation and may be the potentiated synapses. We hypothesize that with synaptic potentiation there occurs an interconversion of spine synapses such that some nonconcave spine profiles become concave spine profiles. Such an interconversion apparently begins shortly after the conditioning stimulation and persists for at least 60 minutes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission*