It is well established that activation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) produces long-lasting alterations in synaptic efficacy. We now demonstrate that activation of mGluRs can also induce long-term alterations in synchronised network activity that are both induced and expressed in the absence of chemical synaptic transmission. Specifically, in hippocampal slices in which synaptic transmission was eliminated by perfusing with a Ca(2+)-free medium, the selective group I mGluR agonist 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG) induced a persistent (>3h) enhancement (>2-fold) of the frequency of synchronised bursting activity. The underlying biochemical mechanism responsible for the induction of this form of plasticity was similar to that for DHPG-induced long-term depression (LTD) in that it required the activation of tyrosine phosphatases. Also, like DHPG-induced LTD, this form of neuronal plasticity could be reversed by application of the mGluR antagonist alpha-methyl-4-carboxyphenylglycine (MCPG). This unusual form of plasticity, which presumably also occurs when synaptic transmission is intact, could contribute to long-term alterations in synchronised activity in hippocampal neuronal networks.
Piccinin, S., Thuault, SJR., Doherty, AJ., Brown, JT., Randall, AD., Davies, CH., Bortolotto, ZA., & Collingridge, GL. (2008). The induction of long-term plasticity of non-synaptic, synchronized activity by the activation of group I mGluRs. Neuropharmacology, 55(4), 459 - 463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.05.017