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Pathway-specific trafficking of native AMPARs by in vivo experience.
An accumulating body of evidence supports the notion that trafficking of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) underlies strengthening of glutamatergic synapses and, in turn, learning and memory in the behaving animal. However, without exception, these experiments have been performed using artificial stimulation protocols, cultured neurons, or viral-overexpression systems that can significantly alter the normal function of AMPARs. Using a single-whisker experience protocol that significantly enhances neuronal responses in vivo, we have targeted neurons in and around the spared whisker column of fosGFP transgenic mice for whole-cell recording. Here we show that in vivo experience induces the pathway-specific strengthening of neocortical excitatory synapses. By assaying AMPARs for rectification and sensitivity to joro spider toxin, we find that in vivo experience induces the delivery of native GluR2-lacking receptors at spared, but not deprived, inputs. These data demonstrate that pathway-specific trafficking of GluR2-lacking AMPARs is a normal feature of synaptic strengthening that underlies experience-dependent plasticity in the behaving animal.