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Channel gating kinetics and synaptic efficacy: a hypothesis for expression of long-term potentiation.


A kinetic model of the glutamate DL-alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor/channel complex was used to test whether changes in the rate constants describing channel behavior could account for various features of long-term potentiation (LTP). Starting values for the kinetic parameters were set to satisfy experimental data (e.g., affinity, mean open time, mean burst length, etc.) and physical constraints (i.e., microreversibility). The resultant model exhibited a variety of dynamic properties known to be associated with the receptor. Increasing the rate constants governing opening/closing of the channel produced an unexpected increase in the probability of the channel being open shortly after transmitter binding. This would account for the enhanced response size with LTP. Increases in rate constants produced two other aspects of LTP: (i) an alteration of the waveform of the synaptic response and (ii) an interaction with changes in desensitization kinetics. The results obtained with the model corresponded closely to those found in LTP experiments. Thus, an increase in opening/closing rates for the postsynaptic receptor channel provides a single explanation for diverse characteristics of LTP. Finally, the kinetic manipulation reduced the coefficient of variation of synaptic currents in a model involving 250 receptors. This calls into question the use of variance measures for distinguishing pre- vs. postsynaptic sites of potentiation.

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