Mossy fiber synaptic transmission at hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells and interneurons was compared in rat brain slices to determine whether mossy terminals are functionally equivalent. Tetanic stimulation of mossy fibers induce long-term potentiation in pyramidal neurons but was either without effect or it induced depression at synapses onto interneurons. Unlike transmission onto pyramidal neurons, transmission onto interneurons was not potentiated after adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cAMP) activation. Furthermore, metabotropic glutamate receptor depression of transmission onto interneurons did not involve cAMP-dependent pathways. Thus, synaptic terminals arising from a common afferent pathway do not function as a single compartment but are specialized, depending on their postsynaptic target.
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