Advantages of Acute Brain Slices Prepared at Physiological Temperature in the Characterization of Synaptic Functions

Front Cell Neurosci. 2020 Mar 19:14:63. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2020.00063. eCollection 2020.


Acute brain slice preparation is a powerful experimental model for investigating the characteristics of synaptic function in the brain. Although brain tissue is usually cut at ice-cold temperature (CT) to facilitate slicing and avoid neuronal damage, exposure to CT causes molecular and architectural changes of synapses. To address these issues, we investigated ultrastructural and electrophysiological features of synapses in mouse acute cerebellar slices prepared at ice-cold and physiological temperature (PT). In the slices prepared at CT, we found significant spine loss and reconstruction, synaptic vesicle rearrangement and decrease in synaptic proteins, all of which were not detected in slices prepared at PT. Consistent with these structural findings, slices prepared at PT showed higher release probability. Furthermore, preparation at PT allows electrophysiological recording immediately after slicing resulting in higher detectability of long-term depression (LTD) after motor learning compared with that at CT. These results indicate substantial advantages of the slice preparation at PT for investigating synaptic functions in different physiological conditions.

Keywords: acute brain slices; cerebellum; electron microscopy; patch-clamp recording; super-resolution microscopy; synaptic plasticity; synaptic transmission.