M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor knock-out mice show deficits in behavioral flexibility, working memory, and hippocampal plasticity

Thomas Seeger, Irina Fedorova, Fang Zheng, Tsuyoshi Miyakawa, Elena Koustova, Jesus Gomeza, Anthony S. Basile, Christian Alzheimer, Jürgen Wess

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186 Citations (Scopus)


Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors are known to play key roles in facilitating cognitive processes. However, the specific roles of the individual muscarinic receptor subtypes (M1-M5) in learning and memory are not well understood at present. In the present study, we used wild-type (M2+/+) and M2 receptor-deficient (M2 -/-) mice to examine the potential role of M2 receptors in learning and memory and hippocampal synaptic plasticity. M2-/- mice showed significant deficits in behavioral flexibility and working memory in the Barnes circular maze and the T-maze delayed alternation tests, respectively. The behavioral deficits of M2-/- mice were associated with profound changes in neuronal plasticity studied at the Schaffer-CA1 synapse of hippocampal slices. Strikingly, short-term potentiation (STP) was abolished, and long-term potentiation (LTP) was drastically reduced after high-frequency stimulation of M2-/- hippocampi. Treatment of M2-/- hippocampal slices with the GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline, restored STP and significantly increased LTP. Whole-cell recordings from CA1 pyramidal cells demonstrated a much stronger disinhibition of GABAergic than glutamatergic transmission in M2-/- hippocampi, which was particularly prominent during stimulus trains. Increased strength of GABAergic inhibition is thus a likely mechanism underlying the impaired synaptic plasticity observed with M2-/- hippocampi. Moreover, the persistent enhancement of excitatory synaptic transmission in CA1 pyramidal cells induced by the transient application of a low concentration of a muscarinic agonist (referred to as LTPm) was totally abolished in M2-/- mice. Because impaired muscarinic cholinergic neurotransmission is associated with Alzheimer's disease and normal aging processes, these findings should be of considerable therapeutic relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10117-10127
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 10-11-2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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