Neurodevelopmental role for VGLUT2 in pyramidal neuron plasticity, dendritic refinement, and in spatial learning

Hongbo He, Amanda H. Mahnke, Sukhjeevan Doyle, Ni Fan, Chih Chieh Wang, Benjamin J. Hall, Ya Ping Tang, Fiona M. Inglis, Chu Chen, Jeffrey D. Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The level and integrity of glutamate transmission during critical periods of postnatal development plays an important role in the refinement of pyramidal neuron dendritic arbor, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Presently, it is not clear how excitatory transmission via the two predominant isoforms of the vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT1 and VGLUT2) participate in this process. To assess a neurodevelopmental role for VGLUT2 in pyramidal neuron maturation, we generated recombinant VGLUT2 knock-out mice and inactivated VGLUT2 throughout development using Emx1-Cre + + knock-in mice. We show that VGLUT2 deficiency in corticolimbic circuits results in reduced evoked glutamate transmission, release probability, and LTD at hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses during a formative developmental period (postnatal days 11-14). In adults, we find a marked reduction in the amount of dendritic arbor across the span of the dendritic tree of CA1 pyramidal neurons and reduced long-term potentiation and levels of synaptic markers spinophilin and VGLUT1. Loss of dendritic arbor is accompanied by corresponding reductions in the number of dendritic spines, suggesting widespread alterations in synaptic connectivity. Conditional VGLUT2 knock-out mice exhibit increased open-field exploratory activity yet impaired spatial learning and memory, endophenotypes similar to those of NMDA receptor knock-down mice. Remarkably, the impairment in learning can be partially restored by selectively increasing NMDA receptor-mediated glutamate transmission in adult mice by prolonged treatment with D-serine and a D-amino acid oxidase inhibitor. Our data indicate that VGLUT2 expression is pivotal to the proper development of mature pyramidal neuronal architecture and plasticity, and that such glutamatergic deficiency leads to cognitive malfunction as observed in several neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15886-15901
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 7 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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