Differential modulation of cortical synaptic activity by calcineurin (phosphatase 2B) versus phosphatases 1 and 2A

Gail D. Thomas, Brian O'Rourke, Robert Sikkink, Frank Rusnak, Eduardo Marban, Ronald G. Victor

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7 Scopus citations


Reversible protein phosphorylation is thought to play an important regulatory role in synaptic neurotransmission. We recently have shown in cultured rat cortical neurons that inhibition of the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent phosphatase calcineurin (phosphatase 2B) increases the frequency, but not the amplitude, of postsynaptic glutamatergic currents, implicating a presynaptic site of action for calcineurin. The specific presynaptic phosphoprotein substrates for calcineurin are unknown, however, calcineurin has been implicated in the control of the Ca2+-independent phosphatases, phosphatases 1 and 2A. To determine whether calcineurin's effects on synaptic transmission are direct or are mediated by changes in phosphatase 1 and/or 2A activities, we used whole-cell voltage clamp to record spontaneous and miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents in the presence of calyculin A (1 μM in bath solution), a membrane permeant inhibitor of phosphatases 1 and 2A which has no effect on calcineurin. Calyculin increased postsynaptic current amplitude without changing current frequency. In these same neurons, subsequent inhibition of calcineurin with cyclosporine A or FK506 had no further effect on current amplitude, but increased current frequency. The increased current amplitude seen with calyculin involved a postsynaptic mechanism, since the effect was reproduced by microcystin (10 μM in pipette solution), which is a membrane-impermeant inhibitor of phosphatases 1 and 2A. Thus, in rat cortical neurons, glutamatergic neurotransmission appears to be frequency-modulated through a presynaptic mechanism by calcineurin, and amplitude-modulated through a postsynaptic mechanism by phosphatases 1 and 2A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-108
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 21 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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