Neuroscience

Making excitatory synapses slow (or fast)

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Science  13 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6189, pp. 1239
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6189.1239-a

Glutamate release in a neuronal synapse.

ILLUSTRATION; V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE

Glutamate is the most widely used neurotransmitter in the brain. Glutamate receptors in the mammalian brain are macromolecular complexes assembled from a pool of different proteins. Several proteins in these complexes, including cornichon homolog 2 (CNIH2), are known to influence the workings of certain glutamate receptors of the AMPA type, but their precise roles are unknown. Boudkkazi et al. recorded synaptic transmission between hippocampal neurons and inhibited CNIH2 expression with small interfering RNAs to investigate the role CNIH2 plays at different synapses. They found that CNIH2 profoundly affected the timing of synaptic transmission—CNIH2 slowed things down, whereas its absence sped things up. Such careful kinetic regulation is necessary because speed is more important for some tasks, whereas reliability, the successful transmission of a signal across the synapse, is more important for others.

Neuron 82, 848 (2014).

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