The fate of hippocampal synapses depends on the sequence of plasticity-inducing events

Elife. 2018 Oct 12;7:e39151. doi: 10.7554/eLife.39151.


Synapses change their strength in response to specific activity patterns. This functional plasticity is assumed to be the brain's primary mechanism for information storage. We used optogenetic stimulation of rat hippocampal slice cultures to induce long-term potentiation (LTP), long-term depression (LTD), or both forms of plasticity in sequence. Two-photon imaging of spine calcium signals allowed us to identify stimulated synapses and to follow their fate for the next 7 days. We found that plasticity-inducing protocols affected the synapse's chance for survival: LTP increased synaptic stability, LTD destabilized synapses, and the effect of the last stimulation protocol was dominant over earlier stimulations. Interestingly, most potentiated synapses were resistant to depression-inducing protocols delivered 24 hr later. Our findings suggest that activity-dependent changes in the transmission strength of individual synapses are transient, but have long-lasting consequences for synaptic lifetime.

Keywords: CA1; GCaMP6; dendritic spine; long-term plasticity; neuroscience; optogenetics; rat; two-photon imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Rats