AMPAR-mediated synaptic transmission in the CA1 hippocampal region of neonatal rats: unexpected resistance to repeated ethanol exposure.
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Alpha-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate glutamatergic receptors (AMPAR) mediate most of the fast excitatory synaptic transmission in mature neurons. In contrast, a number of developing synapses do not express AMPARs; these are gradually acquired in an activity-driven manner during the first week of life in rats, which is equivalent to the third trimester of human pregnancy. Neuronal stimulation has been shown to drive high conductance Ca(2+)-permeable AMPARs into the synapse, strengthening glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Alterations in this process could induce premature stabilization or inappropriate elimination of newly formed synapses and contribute to the hippocampal abnormalities associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Previous studies from our laboratory performed with hippocampal slices from neonatal rats showed that acute ethanol exposure exerts potent stimulant effects on CA1 and CA3 neuronal networks. However, the impact of these in vitro actions of acute ethanol exposure is unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that repeated in vivo exposure to ethanol strengthens AMPAR-mediated neurotransmission in the CA1 region by means of an increase in synaptic expression of Ca(2+)-permeable AMPARs. We exposed rats to ethanol vapor (serum ethanol concentration approximately 40 mM) or air for 4h/day from postnatal day (P) 2-6. In brain slices prepared at P4-6, we found no significant effect of ethanol exposure on input-output curves for AMPAR-mediated field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs), the contribution of Ca(2+)-permeable AMPARs to these fEPSPs, or the acute effect of ethanol on fEPSP amplitude. These results suggest that homeostatic plasticity mechanisms act to maintain glutamatergic synaptic strength and ethanol sensitivity in response to repeated developmental ethanol exposure.