The structural assembly of synapses can be accomplished in a rapid time frame, although most nascent synapses formed during early development are not fully functional and respond poorly to presynaptic action potentials. The mechanisms that are responsible for this delay in synapse maturation are unknown. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) regulate the activity state of chromatin and repress gene expression through the removal of acetyl groups from histones. Class I HDACs, which include HDAC1 and HDAC2, are expressed in the CNS, although their specific role in neuronal function has not been studied. To delineate the contribution of HDAC1 and HDAC2 in the brain, we have used pharmacological inhibitors of HDACs and mice with conditional alleles to HDAC1 and HDAC2. We found that a decrease in the activities of both HDAC1 and HDAC2 during early synaptic development causes a robust facilitation of excitatory synapse maturation and a modest increase in synapse numbers. In contrast, in mature neurons a decrease in HDAC2 levels alone was sufficient to attenuate basal excitatory neurotransmission without a significant change in the numbers of detectable nerve terminals. Therefore, we propose that HDAC1 and HDAC2 form a developmental switch that controls synapse maturation and function acting in a manner dependent on the maturational states of neuronal networks.
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