Aging is associated with an impaired ability to maintain long-term potentiation (LTP), but the underlying cause of the impairment remains unclear. To gain a better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for this impairment, the synaptic transmission and plasticity were studied in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices from adult (6-8 months) and poor-memory (PM)-aged (23-24 months) rats. The one-way inhibitory avoidance learning task was used as the behavioral paradigm to screen PM-aged rats. With intracellular recordings, CA1 neurons of PM-aged rats exhibited a more hyperpolarized resting membrane potential, reduced input resistance, and increased amplitude of afterhyperpolarization and spike threshold, compared with those in adult rats. Although a reduction in the size of excitatory synaptic response was observed in PM-aged rats, no obvious differences were found between adult and PM-aged rats in the pharmacological properties of excitatory synaptic response, paired-pulse facilitation, or frequency-dependent facilitation, which was tested with trains of 10 pulses at 1, 5, and 10 Hz. Slices from the PM-aged rats displayed significantly reduced early-phase long-term potentiation (E-LTP) and late-phase LTP (L-LTP), and the entire frequency-response curve of LTP and LTD is modified to favor LTD induction. The susceptibility of time-dependent reversal of LTP by low-frequency afferent stimulation was also facilitated in PM-aged rats, Bath application of the protein phosphatase inhibitor, calyculin A, enhanced synaptic response in slices from PM-aged, but not adult, rats. In contrast, application of the cAMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitors, Rp-8-CPT-cAMPS and KT5720, induced a decrease in synaptic transmission only in slices from the adult rats. Furthermore, the selective β-adrenergic receptor agonist, isoproterenol, and pertussis toxin-sensitive G-protein inhibitor, N-ethylmaleimide, effectively restored the deficit in E-LTP and L-LTP of PM-aged rats. These results demonstrate that age-related impairments of synaptic transmission and LTP may result from alterations in the balance of protein kinase/phosphatase activities.
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