Over four decades ago, it was discovered that high-frequency stimulation of the dentate gyrus induces long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission. LTP is believed to underlie how we process and code external stimuli before converting it to salient information that we store as 'memories'. It has been shown that rats performing spatial learning tasks display theta-frequency (3-12 Hz) hippocampal neural activity. Moreover, administering theta-burst stimulation (TBS) to hippocampal slices can induce LTP. TBS triggers a sustained rise in intracellular calcium [Ca2+]i in neurons leading to new protein synthesis important for LTP maintenance. In this study, we measured TBS-induced [Ca2+]i oscillations in thousands of cells at increasing distances from the source of stimulation. Following TBS, a calcium wave propagates radially with an average speed of 5.2 µm/s and triggers multiple and regular [Ca2+]i oscillations in the hippocampus. Interestingly, the number and frequency of [Ca2+]i fluctuations post-TBS increased with respect to distance from the electrode. During the post-tetanic phase, 18% of cells exhibited 3 peaks in [Ca2+]i with a frequency of 17 mHz, whereas 2.3% of cells distributed further from the electrode displayed 8 [Ca2+]i oscillations at 33 mHz. We suggest that these observed [Ca2+]i oscillations could lead to activation of transcription factors involved in synaptic plasticity. In particular, the transcription factor, NF-κB, has been implicated in memory formation and is up-regulated after LTP induction. We measured increased activation of NF-κB 30 min post-TBS in CA1 pyramidal cells and also observed similar temporal up-regulation of NF-κB levels in CA1 neurons following water maze training in rats. Therefore, TBS of hippocampal slice cultures in vitro can mimic the cell type-specific up-regulations in activated NF-κB following spatial learning in vivo. This indicates that TBS may induce similar transcriptional changes to spatial learning and that TBS-triggered [Ca2+]i oscillations could activate memory-associated gene expression.
Bibliographical note© 2014 Sheridan et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Sheridan, G., Moeendarbary, E., Pickering, M., O'Connor, J. J., & Murphy, K. J. (2014). Theta-burst stimulation of hippocampal slices induces network-level calcium oscillations and activates analogous gene transcription to spatial learning. PLoS ONE, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100546