During mammalian brain development, neural activity leads to maturation of glutamatergic innervations to locus coeruleus. In this study, fast excitatory postsynaptic currents mediated by N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors were evaluated to investigate the maturation of excitatory postsynaptic currents in locus coeruleus (LC) neurons.
NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents in LC neurons were evaluated using whole-cell voltage-clamp recording during the primary postnatal weeks. This technique was used to calculate the optimum holding potential for NMDA receptor-mediated currents and the best frequency for detecting spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSC).
The optimum holding potential for detecting NMDA receptor-mediated currents was + 40 to + 50 mV in LC neurons. The frequency, amplitude, rise time, and decay time constant of synaptic responses depended on the age of the animal and increased during postnatal maturation.
These findings suggest that most nascent glutamatergic synapses express functional NMDA receptors in the postnatal coerulear neurons, and that the activities of the neurons in this region demonstrate an age-dependent variation.