1. The excitatory synaptic responses of turtle Purkinje cells to climbing and parallel fiber (CF and PF) stimulation have been studied by the use of intrasomatic and intradendritic recordings in intact cerebellum and brain stem-cerebellum preparations in vitro. 2. Activation of CF inputs from the cerebellar peduncle or the region of the inferior olive evoked complex spikes followed by slow excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs), both of which were evoked in an all-or-none fashion. 3. Single stimuli applied to the cerebellar molecular layer activated fast PF-mediated EPSPs; brief trains of PF stimuli (2-5 stimuli, 50-100 Hz) evoked volleys of fast EPSPs followed by a slow, long-lasting EPSP. The amplitude of the fast and slow PF-mediated EPSPs were both graded with stimulus intensity. 4. Slow EPSPs evoked both by CF and PF stimulation were associated with an increase in membrane conductance and were increased in amplitude by hyperpolarization. 5. The CF-evoked slow EPSP was profoundly attenuated by repetitive activation at interstimulus intervals of < 15-20 s, whereas the PF-evoked slow EPSP was not reduced by repetitive activation. 6. The PF-evoked slow EPSP readily triggered dendritic pacemaker discharges when activated at or near resting membrane potential. The activation of this potential by phasic PF volleys may, therefore, provide an appropriate synaptic drive to cerebellar Purkinje cells to entrain the intrinsic pacemaker properties of these cells to cycles of motor activity. 7. Both slow synaptic potentials were blocked by the excitatory amino acid antagonists kynurenate and 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX), but not by DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (DL-AP5) or L-serine-O-phosphate (L-SOP). The PF-evoked slow EPSP was selectively antagonized by L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (L-AP4; 20-100 μM). 8. It is suggested that the CF- and PF-evoked slow EPSPs observed in this study represent a novel class of excitatory amino acid receptor-mediated slow synaptic potentials activated by Purkinje cell afferents, which may play a role in synaptic integration and motor pattern generation in the cerebellum.
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