Mechanisms Underlying Long-Term Synaptic Zinc Plasticity at Mouse Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus Glutamatergic Synapses

J Neurosci. 2020 Jun 24;40(26):4981-4996. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0175-20.2020. Epub 2020 May 20.

Abstract

In many brain areas, such as the neocortex, limbic structures, and auditory brainstem, synaptic zinc is released from presynaptic terminals to modulate neurotransmission. As such, synaptic zinc signaling modulates sensory processing and enhances acuity for discrimination of different sensory stimuli. Whereas sensory experience causes long-term changes in synaptic zinc signaling, the mechanisms underlying this long-term synaptic zinc plasticity remain unknown. To study these mechanisms in male and female mice, we used in vitro and in vivo models of zinc plasticity observed at the zinc-rich glutamatergic dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) parallel fiber synapses onto cartwheel cells. High-frequency stimulation of DCN parallel fiber synapses induced LTD of synaptic zinc signaling (Z-LTD), evidenced by reduced zinc-mediated inhibition of EPSCs. Low-frequency stimulation induced LTP of synaptic zinc signaling (Z-LTP), evidenced by enhanced zinc-mediated inhibition of EPSCs. Pharmacological manipulations of Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors (G1 mGluRs) demonstrated that G1 mGluR activation is necessary and sufficient for inducing Z-LTD and Z-LTP. Pharmacological manipulations of Ca2+ dynamics indicated that rises in postsynaptic Ca2+ are necessary and sufficient for Z-LTD induction. Electrophysiological measurements assessing postsynaptic expression mechanisms, and imaging studies with a ratiometric extracellular zinc sensor probing zinc release, supported that Z-LTD is expressed, at least in part, via reductions in presynaptic zinc release. Finally, exposure of mice to loud sound caused G1 mGluR-dependent Z-LTD at DCN parallel fiber synapses, thus validating our in vitro results. Together, our results reveal a novel mechanism underlying activity- and experience-dependent plasticity of synaptic zinc signaling.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In the neocortex, limbic structures, and auditory brainstem, glutamatergic nerve terminals corelease zinc to modulate excitatory neurotransmission and sensory responses. Moreover, sensory experience causes bidirectional, long-term changes in synaptic zinc signaling. However, the mechanisms of this long-term synaptic zinc plasticity remain unknown. Here, we identified a novel Group 1 mGluR-dependent mechanism that causes bidirectional, long-term changes in synaptic zinc signaling. Our results highlight new mechanisms of brain adaptation during sensory processing, and potentially point to mechanisms of disorders associated with pathologic adaptation, such as tinnitus.

Keywords: auditory; synaptic mechanisms; synaptic plasticity; synaptic zinc.