Small conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (SK channels) are present in spines and can be activated by backpropagating action potentials (APs). This suggests they may play a critical role in spike-timing dependent synaptic plasticity (STDP). Consistent with this idea, EPSPs in both cortical and hippocampal pyramidal neurons were suppressed by preceding APs in an SK-dependent manner. In cortical pyramidal neurons EPSP suppression by preceding APs depended on their precise timing as well as the distance of activated synapses from the soma, was dendritic in origin, and involved SK-dependent suppression of NMDA receptor activation. As a result SK channel activation by backpropagating APs gated STDP induction during low-frequency AP-EPSP pairing, with both LTP and LTD absent under control conditions but present after SK channel block. These findings indicate that activation of SK channels in spines by backpropagating APs plays a key role in regulating both EPSP amplitude and STDP induction.
- calcium-activated potassium
- synaptic plasticity