Pyramidal neurons in the piriform cortex from olfactory-discrimination (OD) trained rats undergo synaptic modifications that last for days after learning. A particularly intriguing modification is reduced paired-pulse facilitation (PPF) in the synapses interconnecting these cells; a phenomenon thought to reflect enhanced synaptic release. The molecular machinery underlying this prolonged physiological modulation of synaptic connectivity is yet to be described. We have recently shown that extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) pathway and protein kinase C (PKC) are also required for learning-induced enhancement of intrinsic neuronal excitability. Here we examine whether these signal-transduction cascades are instrumental for the learning-induced, long-lasting PPF reduction. Days after learning completion, PD98059, a selective inhibitor of MEK, the upstream kinase of ERK, increased PPF in neurons from trained, but not in neurons from naïve and pseudo-trained rats. Consequently, the differences in PPF between neurons from trained rats and controls were abolished. The level of activated ERK in synaptoneurosomes was significantly higher in piriform cortex samples prepared from trained rats. Notably, ERK activation revealed that PPF reduction lags behind ERK activation by 2 d. Similarly, the PKC blocker, GF-109203X, enhanced PPF in neurons from trained rats only, thus abolishing the differences between groups. Interestingly, the PKC activator, OAG, had no effect, indicating that PKC activation is required, but not sufficient for long-lasting PPF reduction. Our data show that persistent ERK activation has a key role in maintaining learning-induced PPF reduction for days. This time frame of compartmental ERK-dependent synaptic modulation suggests a novel role for ERK in cortical function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience