Class I major histocompatibility complex (class I MHC) molecules, known to be important for immune responses to antigen, are expressed also by neurons that undergo activity-dependent, long-term structural and synaptic modifications. Here, we show that in mice genetically deficient for cell surface class I MHC or for a class I MHC receptor component, CD3ζ, refinement of connections between retina and central targets during development is incomplete. In the hippocampus of adult mutants, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) is enhanced, and long-term depression (LTD) is absent. Specific class I MHC messenger RNAs are expressed by distinct mosaics of neurons, reflecting a potential for diverse neuronal functions. These results demonstrate an important role for these molecules in the activity-dependent remodeling and plasticity of connections in the developing and mature mammalian central nervous system (CNS).
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