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The formation of glutamatergic synapses in cultured central neurons: selective increase in miniature synaptic currents.

The formation of synapses between cultured rat thalamic neurons was studied with electrophysiological and immunocytochemical methods. Thalamic neurons in culture form predominantly glutamatergic synapses. Already after 3 days in vitro glutamatergic miniature EPSCs occurred spontaneously and their frequency was strongly increased after K+ depolarization, while GABAergic mIPSCs were found after K+ depolarization at lower frequency. This demonstrates that both, excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory GABAergic synapses were functional in close succession to initial neurite outgrowth. Synapses formed independent of spontaneous electrical activity, which was absent during the first week in culture. Spontaneous action potentials appeared during the second week and chronic action potential blockade by addition of tetrodotoxin reduced neuronal survival and the number of glutamatergic synapses per neuron. During in vitro differentiation the number of synapsin I immunoreactive presynaptic terminals and the frequency of spontaneous glutamatergic miniature EPSCs increased closely correlated, while the frequency of GABAergic mIPSCs after K+ depolarization did not increase. Thus, the continous formation of presynaptic terminals, including possible maturation of transmitter release, appeared to underlie the increase in mEPSC frequency. Analysis of miniature EPSC amplitudes at different stages in vitro revealed an increase in amplitudes, suggesting synaptic differentiation after initial establishment of functional transmission in glutamatergic synapses. This process was synapse specific as amplitudes of GABAergic mIPSCs were invariant.

Pubmed ID: 7805289 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Action Potentials | Animals | Cell Differentiation | Cells, Cultured | Electrophysiology | Glutamic Acid | Image Processing, Computer-Assisted | Immunohistochemistry | Membrane Potentials | Neurons | Patch-Clamp Techniques | Potassium | Presynaptic Terminals | Rats | Rats, Wistar | Synapses | Tetrodotoxin | Thalamus