The neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor regulates excitatory transmission and plasticity at the climbing fibre-Purkinje cell synapse
The climbing fibre (CF) input controls cerebellar Purkinje cell (PC) activity as well as synaptic plasticity at parallel fibre (PF)-PC synapses. Under high activity conditions, CFs release not only glutamate, but also the neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Brief periods of such high CF activity can lead to the induction of long-term depression (LTD) at CF-PC synapses. Thus, we have examined for the first time the role of CRF in regulating excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and long-term plasticity at this synapse. Exogenous application of CRF alone transiently mimicked three aspects of CF-LTD, causing reductions in the CF-evoked excitatory postsynaptic current, complex spike second component and complex spike afterhyperpolarization. The complex spike first component is unaffected by CF-LTD induction and was similarly unaffected by CRF. Application of a CRF receptor antagonist reduced the expression amplitude and induction probability of CF-LTD monitored at the EPSC level. Collectively, these results suggest that under particular sensorimotor conditions, co-release of CRF from climbing fibres could down-regulate excitatory transmission and facilitate LTD induction at CF-PC synapses. Inhibition of either protein kinase C (PKC) or protein kinase A (PKA) attenuated the effects of CRF upon CF-EPSCs. We have previously shown that CF-LTD induction is PKC-dependent, and here demonstrate PKA-dependence as well. These results suggest that both the acute effects of CRF on CF-EPSCs as well as the facilitating effect of CRF on CF-LTD induction can be explained by a CRF-mediated recruitment of PKC and PKA.