AMPA receptors (AMPARs) mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the CNS and their subunit composition determines synaptic efficacy. Whereas AMPAR subunits GluA1-GluA3 have been linked to particular forms of synaptic plasticity and learning, the functional role of GluA4 remains elusive. Here we used electrophysiological, computational and behavioral approaches to demonstrate a crucial function of GluA4 for synaptic excitation and associative memory formation in the cerebellum. Notably, GluA4-knockout mice had ~80% reduced mossy fiber to granule cell synaptic transmission. The fidelity of granule cell spike output was markedly decreased despite attenuated tonic inhibition and increased NMDA receptor-mediated transmission. Computational modeling revealed that GluA4 facilitates pattern separation that is important for associative learning. On a behavioral level, while locomotor coordination was generally spared, GluA4-knockout mice failed to form associative memories during delay eyeblink conditioning. These results demonstrate an essential role for GluA4-containing AMPARs in cerebellar information processing and associative learning.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience