Calcium (Ca2+) influx through NMDA receptors (NMDARs) is essential for synaptogenesis, experience-dependent synaptic remodeling and plasticity. The NMDAR-mediated rise in postsynaptic Ca2+ activates a network of kinases and phosphatases that promote persistent changes in synaptic strength, such as long-term potentiation (LTP). Here we show that the Ca 2+ permeability of neuronal NMDARs is under the control of the cyclic AMP-protein kinase A (cAMP-PKA) signaling cascade. PKA blockers reduced the relative fractional Ca2+ influx through NMDARs as determined by reversal potential shift analysis and by a combination of electrical recording and Ca2+ influx measurements in rat hippocampal neurons in culture and hippocampal slices from mice. In slices, PKA blockers markedly inhibited NMDAR-mediated Ca2+ rises in activated dendritic spines, with no significant effect on synaptic current. Consistent with this, PKA blockers depressed the early phase of NMDAR-dependent LTP at hippocampal Schaffer collateral-CA1 (Sch-CA1) synapses. Our data link PKA-dependent synaptic plasticity to Ca2+ signaling in spines and thus provide a new mechanism whereby PKA regulates the induction of LTP.
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