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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Astrocyte-mediated short-term synaptic depression in the rat hippocampal CA1 area: two modes of decreasing release probability

My S Andersson* and Eric Hanse

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Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Gothenburg University, Göteborg, Sweden Box 432, Medicinaregatan 11, 405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2011, 12:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-12-87

Published: 24 August 2011



Synaptic burst activation feeds back as a short-term depression of release probability at hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses. This short-term synaptic plasticity requires functional astrocytes and it affects both the recently active (< 1 s) synapses (post-burst depression) as well as inactive neighboring synapses (transient heterosynaptic depression). The aim of this study was to investigate and compare the components contributing to the depression of release probability in these two different scenarios.


When tested using paired-pulses, following a period of inactivity, the transient heterosynaptic depression was expressed as a reduction in the response to only the first pulse, whereas the response to the second pulse was unaffected. This selective depression of only the first response in a high-frequency burst was shared by the homosynaptic post-burst depression, but it was partially counteracted by augmentation at these recently active synapses. In addition, the expression of the homosynaptic post-burst depression included an astrocyte-mediated reduction of the pool of release-ready primed vesicles.


Our results suggest that activated astrocytes depress the release probability via two different mechanisms; by depression of vesicular release probability only at inactive synapses and by imposing a delay in the recovery of the primed pool of vesicles following depletion. These mechanisms restrict the expression of the astrocyte-mediated depression to temporal windows that are typical for synaptic burst activity.