Sympathetic sprouting drives hippocampal cholinergic reinnervation that prevents loss of a muscarinic receptor-dependent long-term depression at CA3-CA1 synapses

Academic Article


  • Degeneration of septohippocampal cholinergic neurons results in memory deficits attributable to loss of cholinergic modulation of hippocampal synaptic circuits. A remarkable consequence of cholinergic degeneration is the sprouting of noradrenergic sympathetic fibers from the superior cervical ganglia into hippocampus. The functional impact of sympathetic ingrowth on synaptic physiology has never been investigated. Here, we report that, at CA3-CA1 synapses, a Hebbian form of long-term depression (LTD) induced by muscarinic M1 receptor activation (mLTD) is lost after medial septal lesion. Unexpectedly, expression of mLTD is rescued by sympathetic sprouting. These effects are specific because LTP and other forms of LTD are unaffected. The rescue of mLTD expression is coupled temporally with the reappearance of cholinergic fibers in hippocampus, as assessed by the immunostaining of fibers for VAChT (vesicular acetylcholine transporter). Both the cholinergic reinnervation and mLTD rescue are prevented by bilateral superior cervical ganglionectomy, which also prevents the noradrenergic sympathetic sprouting. The new cholinergic fibers likely originate from the superior cervical ganglia because unilateral ganglionectomy, performed when cholinergic reinnervation is well established, removes the reinnervation on the ipsilateral side. Thus, the temporal coupling of the cholinergic reinnervation with mLTD rescue, together with the absence of reinnervation and mLTD expression after ganglionectomy, demonstrate that the autonomic-driven cholinergic reinnervation is essential for maintaining mLTD after central cholinergic cell death. We have discovered a novel phenomenon whereby the autonomic and central nervous systems experience structural rearrangement to replace lost cholinergic innervation in hippocampus, with the consequence of preserving a form of LTD that would otherwise be lost as a result of cholinergic degeneration. Copyright © 2006 Society for Neuroscience.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Scheiderer CL; McCutchen E; Thacker EE; Kolasa K; Ward MK; Parsons D; Harrell LE; Dobrunz LE; McMahon LL
  • Start Page

  • 3745
  • End Page

  • 3756
  • Volume

  • 26
  • Issue

  • 14