Sequential changes in the synaptic structural profile following long-term potentiation in the rat dentate gyrus: III. Long-term maintenance phase
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LTP has been associated with changes in synaptic morphology but the nature of these changes over the time course of the enhanced electrophysiological response has not been fully determined. The current research involved an examination of synaptic structure in the rat hippocampus during the long-term maintenance phase of LTP. Synapses were examined in the middle third of the molecular layer (MML) of the rat dentate gyrus following repeated high frequency tetanization of the perforant path. Synapses from both the ipsilateral inner third of the dentate molecular layer (IML), which was not directly stimulated during the induction of LTP, as well as implanted, nonstimulated animals, served as controls. LTP was induced over a 4-h period, and the animals were sacrificed 5 days after the final stimulation of the LTP group. Ultrastructural quantification included the total number of synapses per neuron, synaptic curvature, the presence of synaptic perforations, and the maximum length of the synapses. No overall changes in the number of synapses per neuron, shape, or synaptic perforations were observed. There was, however, a significant increase in the length of synapses in the directly stimulated LTP tissue. This increase in synaptic length was particularly evident in the concave-shaped synapses which were also more perforated. These results, together with previous findings, describe a sequence of changes in synaptic morphology that accompany LTP in a structure that is associated with learning and memory.
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