Dendrites are crucial for integrating incoming synaptic information. Individual dendritic branches are thought to constitute a signal processing unit, yet how neighboring synapses shape the boundaries of functional dendritic units is not well understood. Here, we address the cellular basis underlying the organization of the strengths of neighboring Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses by optical quantal analysis and spine size measurements. Inducing potentiation at clusters of spines produces NMDA-receptor-dependent heterosynaptic plasticity. The direction of postsynaptic strength change shows distance dependency to the stimulated synapses where proximal synapses predominantly depress, whereas distal synapses potentiate; potentiation and depression are regulated by CaMKII and calcineurin, respectively. In contrast, heterosynaptic presynaptic plasticity is confined to weakening of presynaptic strength of nearby synapses, which requires CaMKII and the retrograde messenger nitric oxide. Our findings highlight the parallel engagement of multiple signaling pathways, each with characteristic spatial dynamics in shaping the local pattern of synaptic strengths.
dendritic branch, glutamate uncaging, heterosynaptic plasticity, long-term depression, long-term potentiation, nitric oxide, optical quantal analysis, release probability, spine