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Transient Sensitivity of Rat Cerebellar Purkinje Cells to N-methyl-D-aspartate during Development. A Voltage Clamp Study in in vitro Slices


Correspondence to: M. Krupa, as above


In vitro sagittal slices of immature rat cerebellum were used to study the development of the sensitivity of Purkinje cells (PC) to L-glutamate (Glu) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). In 8-day-old animals, all PCs recorded in magnesium-free medium responded to iontophoretic applications of both agonists by transient and dose dependent inward currents which, in both cases, were heavily contaminated by a Glu and NMDA-induced synaptic noise. When 5 × 10−6 M tetrodotoxin (TTX) was added to the perfusing medium, this evoked synaptic noise was completely abolished in most cells whereas clear-cut inward currents induced in PCs by Glu and NMDA applications on their dendrites were still visible. These responses were selectively antagonized by the non-NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) and by the NMDA receptor antagonist D-2-aminophosphono-5-valeric acid (2APV) respectively. Excitatory responses induced by aspartate in 8– 10-day-old PCs were also markedly antagonized by CNQX. At this stage, the sensitivity of PCs to NMDA was about one order of magnitude less than that to Glu. In 15–20-day-old animals, all PCs were still responsive to Glu whereas only 70% of them were still excited by NMDA in the presence of TTX in the bath. Furthermore, the sensitivity of PCs to Glu was higher than at 8 days of age, whereas that to NMDA was significantly lower, even when considering only those cells which still responded to this agonist. This trend was still accentuated later on since at 2 months of age, only 25% of PCs were excited by NMDA whereas their sensitivity to Glu was similar to that observed in 15–20-day-old animals. Therefore, the present results are fully consistent with the view that PCs have a transient expression of NMDA receptors during development.