Activity-dependent depression of the spike after-depolarization generates long-lasting intrinsic plasticity in hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons


Corresponding author J. Brown: MRC Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, Department of Anatomy, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK. Email:


Persistent plastic changes to the intrinsic excitability of neurons have substantial implications for computational processing within the CNS. We have identified and characterized a novel long-lasting form of intrinsic plasticity in hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells. Although the patterns of action potential firing elicited in this cell population by depolarizing current injections exhibited considerable diversity, practically all cells produced an initial high frequency (>100 Hz) burst of two to five spikes. This burst involved conductances that were responsible for the prominent spike afterdepolarization of CA3 pyramids. Long-lasting changes in the firing behaviour of CA3 cells were produced by conditioning stimuli (CS) consisting of either periods of depolarization in voltage clamp or periods of short (2 or 4 spikes) high frequency (circa 100 Hz) burst firing at 5 or 10 Hz. CS-induced changes included substantial prolongation of the first inter-spike interval and increased spike jitter. Similar CS-induced changes were seen when the test stimulus used to elicit firing resembled a glutamatergic EPSC. In line with this, a long-lasting depression of the ADP was elicited by the same CS that altered firing patterns of CA3 cells. Conditioning-induced changes in both spiking patterns and ADP amplitude were blocked by buffering intracellular Ca2+ with BAPTA. Furthermore, the Kv7 channel blocker XE991, a cognitive enhancer, both enhanced the ADP and completely eliminated its conditioning-induced depression. These findings indicate that a persistent enhancement of Kv7 channels, following a transient increase in cytoplasmic Ca2+, results in a prolonged depression of the ADP in CA3 pyramidal neurones.