In this study, the effect of extracellular pH on glutamatergic synaptic transmission was examined in mechanically dissociated rat hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons using a whole-cell patch-clamp technique under voltage-clamp conditions. Native synaptic boutons were isolated without using any enzymes, using a so-called "synapse bouton preparation,"and preserved for the electrical stimulation of single boutons. Both the frequency and amplitude of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) were found to decrease and increase in response to modest acidic (∼pH 6.5) and basic (∼pH 8.5) solutions, respectively. These changes in sEPSC frequency were not affected by the addition of TTX but completely disappeared by successive addition of Cd2+. However, changes in sEPSC amplitude induced by acidic and basic extracellular solutions were not affected by the addition of neither TTX nor Cd2+. The glutamate-induced whole-cell currents were decreased and increased by acidic and basic solutions, respectively. Acidic pH also decreased the amplitude and increased the failure rate (Rf) and paired-pulse rate (PPR) of glutamatergic electrically evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (eEPSCs), while a basic pH increased the amplitude and decreased both the Rf and PPR of eEPSCs. The kinetics of the currents were not affected by changes in pH. Acidic and basic solutions decreased and increased voltagegated Ca2+ but not Na+ channel currents in the dentate gyrus granule cell bodies. Our results indicate that extracellular pH modulates excitatory transmission via both pre- and postsynaptic sites, with the presynaptic modulation correlated to changes in voltage-gated Ca2+ channel currents. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The effects of external pH changes on spontaneous, miniature, and evoked excitatory synaptic transmission in CA3 hippocampal synapses were examined using the isolated nerve bouton preparation, which allowed for the accurate regulation of extracellular pH at the synapses. Acidification generally reduced transmission, partly via effects on presynaptic Ca2+ channel currents, while alkalization generally enhanced transmission. Both pre- and postsynaptic sites contributed to these effects.
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