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Postnatal hypofunction of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors alters perforant path synaptic plasticity and filtering and impairs dentate gyrus-mediated spatial discrimination.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Transient hypofunction of the NMDA receptor represents a convergence point for the onset and further development of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Although the cumulative evidence indicates dysregulation of the hippocampal formation in schizophrenia, the integrity of the synaptic transmission and plasticity conveyed by the somatosensorial inputs to the dentate gyrus, the perforant pathway synapses, have barely been explored in this pathological condition.

EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: We identified a series of synaptic alterations of the lateral and medial perforant paths in animals postnatally treated with the NMDA antagonist MK-801. This dysregulation suggests decreased cognitive performance, for which the dentate gyrus is critical.

KEY RESULTS: We identified alterations in the synaptic properties of the lateral and medial perforant paths to the dentate gyrus synapses in slices from MK-801-treated animals. Altered glutamate release and decreased synaptic strength precede an impairment in the induction and expression of long-term potentiation (LTP) and CB1 receptor-mediated long-term depression (LTD). Remarkably, by inhibiting the degradation of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an endogenous ligand of the CB1 receptor, we restored the LTD in animals treated with MK-801. Additionally, we showed for the first time, that spatial discrimination, a cognitive task that requires dentate gyrus integrity, is impaired in animals exposed to transient hypofunction of NMDA receptors.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Dysregulation of glutamatergic transmission and synaptic plasticity from the entorhinal cortex to the dentate gyrus has been demonstrated, which may explain the cellular dysregulations underlying the altered cognitive processing in the dentate gyrus associated with schizophrenia.

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