Latent sex differences in molecular signaling that underlies excitatory synaptic potentiation in the hippocampus

Anant Jain, Guang Zhe Huang, Catherine S. Woolley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Excitatory synapses can be potentiated by chemical neuromodulators, including 17β-estradiol (E2), or patterns of synaptic activation, as in long-term potentiation (LTP). Here, we investigated kinases and calcium sources required for acute E2-induced synaptic potentiation in the hippocampus of each sex and tested whether sex differences in kinase signaling extend to LTP. We recorded EPSCs from CA1 pyramidal cells in hippocampal slices from adult rats and used specific inhibitors of kinases and calcium sources. This revealed that, although E2 potentiates synapses to the same degree in each sex, cAMP-activated protein kinase (PKA) is required to initiate potentiation only in females. In contrast, mitogen-activated protein kinase, Src tyrosine kinase, and rho-associated kinase are required for initiation in both sexes; similarly, Ca 2- /calmodulin-activated kinase II is required for expression/maintenance of E2-induced potentiation in both sexes. Calcium source experiments showed that L-type calcium channels and calcium release from internal stores are both required for E2-induced potentiation in females, whereas in males, either L-type calcium channel activation or calcium release from stores is sufficient to permit potentiation. To investigate the generalizability of a sex difference in the requirement for PKA in synaptic potentiation, we tested how PKA inhibition affects LTP. This showed that, although the magnitude of both high-frequency stimulation-induced and pairing-induced LTP is the same between sexes, PKA is required for LTP in females but not males. These results demonstrate latent sex differences in mechanisms of synaptic potentiation in which distinct molecular signaling converges to common functional endpoints in males and females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1552-1565
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 27 2019


  • Calcium
  • Hippocampus
  • LTP
  • PKA
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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