Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a serine protease endogenous to hippocampal neurons, is shown to recognize a highly conserved sequence in the extracellular domain of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs). When added to brain homogenates, tPA generated a CAM fragment similar in size to that produced in hippocampal slices by brief periods of NMDA receptor stimulation. The serine protease inhibitor 4-(2-Aminoethyl)-benzenesulfonyl fluoride blocked the effects of tPA with an approximately 50% suppression at 250 microM. The inhibitor at this concentration had no evident effect on synaptic responses but caused long term potentiation to decay back to baseline over a 1 h period. These results suggest that extracellular breakdown of cell adhesion molecules initiated by NMDA receptors and mediated by serine proteases contributes to the formation of stable potentiation.
Copyright 1998 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.