Nature communications

Presynaptic hyperpolarization induces a fast analogue modulation of spike-evoked transmission mediated by axonal sodium channels.

PMID 26657943


In the mammalian brain, synaptic transmission usually depends on presynaptic action potentials (APs) in an all-or-none (or digital) manner. Recent studies suggest, however, that subthreshold depolarization in the presynaptic cell facilitates spike-evoked transmission, thus creating an analogue modulation of a digital process (or analogue-digital (AD) modulation). At most synapses, this process is slow and not ideally suited for the fast dynamics of neural networks. We show here that transmission at CA3-CA3 and L5-L5 synapses can be enhanced by brief presynaptic hyperpolarization such as an inhibitory postsynaptic potential (IPSP). Using dual soma-axon patch recordings and live imaging, we find that this hyperpolarization-induced AD facilitation (h-ADF) is due to the recovery from inactivation of Nav channels controlling AP amplitude in the axon. Incorporated in a network model, h-ADF promotes both pyramidal cell synchrony and gamma oscillations. In conclusion, cortical excitatory synapses in local circuits display hyperpolarization-induced facilitation of spike-evoked synaptic transmission that promotes network synchrony.