Mechanisms of potentiation of mossy fiber EPSCs in the cerebellar nuclei by coincident synaptic excitation and inhibition

Jason R. Pugh, Indira M. Raman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Neurons of the cerebellar nuclei receive synaptic excitation from cerebellar mossy fibers. Unlike in many principal neurons, coincident presynaptic activity and postsynaptic depolarization do not generate long-term potentiation at these synapses. Instead, EPSCs are potentiated by high-frequency trains of presynaptic activity applied with postsynaptic hyperpolarization, in patterns resembling mossy-fiber-mediated excitation and Purkinje-cell-mediated inhibition that are predicted to occur during delay eyelid conditioning. Here, we have used electrophysiology and Ca imaging to test how synaptic excitation and inhibition interact to generate long-lasting synaptic plasticity in nuclear cells in cerebellar slices. We find that the extent of plasticity varies with the relative timing of synaptic excitation and hyperpolarization. Potentiation is most effective when synaptic stimuli precede the postinhibitory rebound by ∼400 ms, whereas with longer intervals, or with a reverse sequence, EPSCs tend to depress. When basal intracellular Ca is raised by spontaneous firing or reduced by voltage clamping at subthreshold potentials, potentiation is induced as long as the synaptic-rebound temporal sequence is maintained, suggesting that plasticity does not require Ca levels to exceed a threshold or attain a specific concentration. Although rebound and spike-dependent Ca influx are global, potentiation is synapse specific, and is disrupted by inhibitors of calcineurin or Ca-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, but not PKC. When IPSPs replace the hyperpolarizing step in the induction protocol, potentiation proceeds normally. These results lead us to propose that synaptic and inhibitory/rebound stimuli initiate separate processes, with local NMDA receptor-mediated Ca influx "priming" synapses, and Ca changes from the inhibition and rebound "triggering" potentiation at recently activated synapses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10549-10560
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 15 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Coincidence detection
  • Deep cerebellar nuclei
  • Eye blink
  • Interpositus
  • Long-term potentiation
  • Purkinje cell
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • non-Hebbian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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