Low-frequency stimulation induces a durable long-term depression in young adult hyperthyroid rats: the role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and protein phosphatase 1

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Abstract

Long-term potentiation and long-term depression (LTD) are cellular mechanisms of learning and memory in the mammalian brain. We have previously shown that adult hyperthyroid rats showed a delay in the acquisition of a place learning task and attenuated long-term potentiation. However, changes in LTD in hyperthyroidism remain unclear. Rats were administered 0.2 mg/kg/day of L-thyroxine for 21 days starting at postnatal day 40 to induce hyperthyroidism. LTD was induced in the dentate gyrus using low-frequency stimulation (LFS) of the perforant pathway. The mRNA expressions of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38-MAPK) and protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) were evaluated using a quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR. In control rats, a standard LFS protocol induced a slight depression of the population spike (PS) amplitude during the induction phase of LTD (76±13% vs. baseline), but a small potentiation of the PS amplitude was observed in the early (107±18%) and late (111±20%) phases of LTD. Interestingly, in the hyperthyroid rats, the same LFS protocol induced a reliable LTD in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus as evidenced by a marked depression in the PS amplitude during the induction (54±6% vs. baseline) and the early phases (56±8%) of LTD. Elevated mRNA levels of p38-MAPK and PP1 were observed in the hippocampus of the LFS-treated hyperthyroid rats compared with the hippocampus of the vehicle-treated hyperthyroid rats. No significant change in p38-MAPK or PP1 mRNA expression was observed in the euthyroid rats. The present study shows that a standard LFS protocol can induce a durable depression of synaptic strength and an upregulation of PP1 and p38-MAPK mRNA in hyperthyroid rats. We conclude that hyperthyroidism can induce molecular changes associated with degeneration of the hippocampus. The relationship between the levels of thyroid hormone and dementia requires further investigation.

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