Long-term potentiation (LTP) of mossy fiber EPSCs in the cerebellar nuclei is controlled by synaptic inhibition from Purkinje neurons. EPSCs are potentiated by a sequence of excitation, inhibition, and disinhibition, raising the question of how these stimuli interact to induce plasticity. Here, we find that synaptic excitation, inhibition, and disinhibition couple to different calcium-dependent signaling pathways. In LTP induction protocols, constitutively active calcineurin can replace synaptic excitation, and constitutively active α-CaMKII can replace calcium influx associated with resumption of spiking upon disinhibition. Additionally, nimodipine can replace hyperpolarization, indicating that inhibition of firing decreases Ca influx through L-type Ca channels, providing a necessary signal for LTP. Together, these data suggest that potentiation develops after a calcineurin priming signal combines with an α-CaMKII triggering signal if and only if L-type Ca current is reduced. Thus, hyperpolarization induced by synaptic inhibition actively controls excitatory synaptic plasticity in the cerebellar nuclei.
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