Letters to Nature

Nature 434, 221-225 (10 March 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature03366; Received 11 May 2004; Accepted 23 December 2004

Spike-timing-dependent synaptic plasticity depends on dendritic location

Robert C. Froemke1, Mu-ming Poo1 & Yang Dan1

  1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3200, USA

Correspondence to: Yang Dan1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to Y.D. (Email: ydan@berkeley.edu).

In the neocortex, each neuron receives thousands of synaptic inputs distributed across an extensive dendritic tree. Although postsynaptic processing of each input is known to depend on its dendritic location1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, it is unclear whether activity-dependent synaptic modification is also location-dependent. Here we report that both the magnitude and the temporal specificity of spike-timing-dependent synaptic modification9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 vary along the apical dendrite of rat cortical layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons. At the distal dendrite, the magnitude of long-term potentiation is smaller, and the window of pre-/postsynaptic spike interval for long-term depression (LTD) is broader. The spike-timing window for LTD correlates with the window of action potential-induced suppression of NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) receptors; this correlation applies to both their dendritic location-dependence and pharmacological properties. Presynaptic stimulation with partial blockade of NMDA receptors induced LTD and occluded further induction of spike-timing-dependent LTD, suggesting that NMDA receptor suppression underlies LTD induction. Computer simulation studies showed that the dendritic inhomogeneity of spike-timing-dependent synaptic modification leads to differential input selection at distal and proximal dendrites according to the temporal characteristics of presynaptic spike trains. Such location-dependent tuning of inputs, together with the dendritic heterogeneity of postsynaptic processing, could enhance the computational capacity of cortical pyramidal neurons.


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