CaV2.1 is highly expressed in the nervous system and plays an essential role in the presynaptic modulation of neurotransmitter release machinery. Recently, the antiepileptic drug levetiracetam was reported to inhibit presynaptic CaV2.1 functions, reducing glutamate release in the hippocampus, although the precise physiological role of CaV2.1-regulated synaptic functions in cognitive performance at the system level remains unknown. This study examined whether CaV2.1 mediates hippocampus-dependent spatial short-term memory using the object location and Y-maze tests, and perirhinal cortex-dependent nonspatial short-term memory using the object recognition test, via a combined pharmacological and genetic approach. Heterozygous rolling Nagoya (rol/+) mice carrying the CaV2.1α1 mutation had normal spatial and nonspatial short-term memory. A 100mg/kg dose of levetiracetam, which is ineffective in wild-type controls, blocked spatial short-term memory in rol/+ mice. At 5mg/kg, the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor blocker (+/-)-3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)-propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP), which is ineffective in wild-type controls, also blocked the spatial short-term memory in rol/+ mice. Furthermore, a combination of subthreshold doses of levetiracetam (25mg/kg) and CPP (2.5mg/kg) triggered a spatial short-term memory deficit in rol/+ mice, but not in wild-type controls. Similar patterns of nonspatial short-term memory were observed in wild-type and rol/+ mice when injected with levetiracetam (0-300mg/kg). These results indicate that CaV2.1-mediated NMDA receptor signaling is critical in hippocampus-dependent spatial short-term memory and differs in various regions. The combination subthreshold pharmacological and genetic approach presented here is easily performed and can be used to study functional signaling pathways in neuronal circuits.
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