Research ArticleNeuroscience

The acid-sensing ion channel ASIC1a mediates striatal synapse remodeling and procedural motor learning

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Sci. Signal.  07 Aug 2018:
Vol. 11, Issue 542, eaar4481
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aar4481

ASIC channels in motor learning

Members of the ASIC family of acid-sensing ion channels are abundant in various regions of the brain and mediate neuronal synaptic function. Yu et al. found that ASIC1a is present in neurons in the striatum. Manipulating ASIC1a expression in striatal neurons in mice revealed that this channel is critical for promoting the synaptic abundance and function of NMDA receptors in response to changes in extracellular pH. By activating a kinase-dependent transcriptional program that promotes the expression of NMDA receptor subunits, ASIC1a channels stimulate synaptic activity and dendritic spine maturation in the striatal neurons that facilitate motor learning. Mice lacking ASIC1a were slower to learn new motor coordination tasks. These findings may have implications for both neuronal development and neuronal disorders that affect the striatum and motor control.