Presynaptic kainate receptors (KARs) facilitate or depress transmitter release at several synapses in the CNS. Here, we report that synaptically activated KARs presynaptically facilitate and depress transmission at parallel fiber synapses in the cerebellar cortex. Low-frequency stimulation of parallel fibers facilitates synapses onto both stellate cells and Purkinje cells, whereas high-frequency stimulation depresses stellate cell synapses but continues to facilitate Purkinje cell synapses. These effects are mimicked by exogenous KAR agonists and eliminated by blocking KARs. This differential frequency-dependent sensitivity of these two synapses regulates the balance of excitatory and inhibitory input to Purkinje cells and therefore their excitability.
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