Brief dendritic calcium signals initiate long-lasting synaptic depression in cerebellar Purkinje cells

Arthur Konnerth, Jörg Dreessen, George J. Augustine

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We have performed experiments designed to test the hypothesis that long-term depression (LTD) of excitatory synaptic transmission in the cerebellar cortex is caused by a rise in postsynaptic Ca concentration. These experiments combined measurements of synaptic efficacy, performed with the thin slice patch clamp technique, with fura-2 measurements of intracellular Ca concentration ([Ca]i) in single cerebellar Purkinje cells. Simultaneous activation of the climbing fiber and parallel fibers innervating single Purkinje cells caused a LTD of transmission of the parallel fiber-Purkinje cell excitatory synapse. This LTD was associated with large and transient rises in [Ca]i in the Purkinje cell and apparently was due to Ca entry through voltage-gated Ca channels in the Purkinje cell dendrites. The rise in [Ca]i produced by climbing fiber activity was necessary for LTD, because addition of the Ca chelator bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetate (BAPTA) to the interior of the Purkinje cell blocked LTD. Further, elevation of [Ca]i, produced by depolarizing pulses delivered in conjunction with parallel fiber activation, induced a depression of synaptic activity that closely resembled LTD in both time course and magnitude. Thus, a rise in [Ca]i appears to be sufficient to initiate LTD. From these results, we conclude that LTD of the parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapse is initiated by a brief, climbing fiber-mediated rise in postsynaptic [Ca]i and that LTD is maintained by other, longer-lived processes that are triggered by the rise in postsynaptic [Ca]i.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7051-7055
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain slices
  • Patch clamp
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Video imaging


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