Emotionally arousing events are particularly well remembered. This effect is known to result from the release of stress hormones and activation of beta adrenoceptors in the amygdala. However, the underlying cellular mechanisms are not understood. Small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels are present at glutamatergic synapses where they limit synaptic transmission and plasticity. Here, we show that beta adrenoceptor activation regulates synaptic SK channels in lateral amygdala pyramidal neurons, through activation of protein kinase A. We show that SK channels are constitutively recycled from the postsynaptic membrane and that activation of beta adrenoceptors removes SK channels from excitatory synapses. This results in enhanced synaptic transmission and plasticity. Our findings demonstrate a novel mechanism by which beta adrenoceptors control synaptic transmission and plasticity, through regulation of SK channel trafficking, and suggest that modulation of synaptic SK channels may contribute to beta adrenoceptor-mediated potentiation of emotional memories.
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