Metaplasticity is the dynamic regulation of the ability to induce activity-dependent synaptic plasticity and is governed by the prior history of the synapses. Previous reports by others and us have shown that behavioral stress induces a form of emotional metaplasticity that affects the ability to induce LTP in the subiculum–medial prefrontal cortex pathway, which depends on NMDA receptors (NMDAr). However, studies addressing the effects of stress on LTP and metaplasticity have mainly focused on the adult animal. Here we compared the effects of exposure to stress on the induction of LTP in adult and juvenile animals and examined whether a low dose of NMDAr antagonist (MK801) that does not affect LTP per se would differentially affect stress-induced metaplasticity in adult and juvenile animals.
Our findings show that exposure to the elevated platform differentially affects the induction of LTP in adult and juvenile animals. Specifically, whereas exposure to stress resulted in impaired LTP in adult animals, it resulted in enhanced LTP in juvenile animals. Similarly, while MK801 failed to inhibit the induction of LTP in both age groups, it resulted in inhibition of stress-induced enhanced LTP in juvenile animals, but did not affect stress-induced impaired LTP in adult animals. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that emotional metaplasticity is differently dependent on NMDAr in adult and juvenile animals that may stem from developmental differences in the NMDA receptor representation. These results further confirm that the mechanisms of plasticity following stress are distinctive in the two groups of age.