On the mechanisms of cerebellar synaptic plasticity
Changes in the strength of signalling between neurones are thought to provide a cellular substrate for learning and memory. In the cerebellar cortex, raising the frequency and the strength of parallel fibre (PF) stimulation leads to a long-term depression (LTD) of the strength of signalling at the synapse between PFs and Purkinje cells (PCs), which spreads to distant synapses to the same cell via a nitric oxide (NO) dependent mechanism. At the same synapse, but under conditions of reduced post-synaptic calcium activity, raised frequency stimulation (RFS) of PFs triggers a long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission. The aims of the work described in this thesis were to investigate the conditions necessary for LTD and LTP at this synapse following RFS and to identify the origins and second messenger cascades involved in the induction and spread of LTP and LTD. In thin, parasagittal cerebellar slices whole cell patch clamp recordings were made from PCs and the effects of RFS of one of two, independent PF inputs to the same PC were examined under a range of experimental conditions. Under conditions designed to reduce post-synaptic calcium activity, RFS to a single PF input led to LTP and a decreases in paired pulse facilitation (PPF) in both pathways. The direction of synaptic plasticity at the PF-PC synapse in response to RFS depends largely on the level of post-synaptic calcium activity. LTP and LTD were non-input specific and both forms of plasticity were dependent on NOS activity. Induction of LTP was mediated by a presynaptic mechanism and depended on NO and cAMP production. LTD on the other hand was a post-synaptic process.