AbstractDepolarization-induced transmitter release in synaptosomes prepared from the hippocampus of aged rats is decreased compared with release from young animals. Although the underlying cause of this deficit is not known, some evidence suggests that increased membrane rigidity may contribute to these age-related synaptic changes. One possible consequence of the decreased transmitter release in the hippocampus of aged rats is a reduced ability to sustain long-term potentiation in perforant path-granule cell synapses, a pathway in which maintenance of long-term potentiation and increased glutamate release have been coupled. The observation that there is an age-dependent impairment in long-term potentiation is consistent with this view. If the age-related deficits in release and long-term potentiation are a consequence of increased membrane rigidity, it must be predicted that any manoeuvre which reverses membrane rigidity should reverse these functional deficits. In the present study, we investigated the effect of dietary manipulation of aged rats with omega-3 fatty acids on synaptic function. The data obtained indicate that an eight-week modified feeding schedule reversed the age-related impairments in long-term potentiation and depolarization-induced glutamate transmitter release. We also report that the concentrations of both docosahexanoic acid and arachidonic acid, two main polyunsaturated fatty acids in neuronal membranes, were decreased in the hippocampus of aged rats, and were restored by dietary manipulation. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that these deficits results from a change in membrane composition.
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