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Event: 386

Key Event Title

The KE title should describe a discrete biological change that can be measured. It should generally define the biological object or process being measured and whether it is increased, decreased, or otherwise definably altered relative to a control state. For example “enzyme activity, decreased”, “hormone concentration, increased”, or “growth rate, decreased”, where the specific enzyme or hormone being measured is defined. More help

Decrease of neuronal network function

Short name
The KE short name should be a reasonable abbreviation of the KE title and is used in labelling this object throughout the AOP-Wiki. The short name should be less than 80 characters in length. More help
Neuronal network function, Decreased

Biological Context

Structured terms, selected from a drop-down menu, are used to identify the level of biological organization for each KE. Note, KEs should be defined within a particular level of biological organization. Only KERs should be used to transition from one level of organization to another. Selection of the level of biological organization defines which structured terms will be available to select when defining the Event Components (below). More help

Organ term

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.The biological context describes the location/biological environment in which the event takes place.  For molecular/cellular events this would include the cellular context (if known), organ context, and species/life stage/sex for which the event is relevant. For tissue/organ events cellular context is not applicable.  For individual/population events, the organ context is not applicable. More help
Organ term

Key Event Components

Further information on Event Components and Biological Context may be viewed on the attached pdf.Because one of the aims of the AOP-KB is to facilitate de facto construction of AOP networks through the use of shared KE and KER elements, authors are also asked to define their KEs using a set of structured ontology terms (Event Components). In the absence of structured terms, the same KE can readily be defined using a number of synonymous titles (read by a computer as character strings). In order to make these synonymous KEs more machine-readable, KEs should also be defined by one or more “event components” consisting of a biological process, object, and action with each term originating from one of 22 biological ontologies (Ives, et al., 2017; See List). Biological process describes dynamics of the underlying biological system (e.g., receptor signalling). The biological object is the subject of the perturbation (e.g., a specific biological receptor that is activated or inhibited). Action represents the direction of perturbation of this system (generally increased or decreased; e.g., ‘decreased’ in the case of a receptor that is inhibited to indicate a decrease in the signalling by that receptor).Note that when editing Event Components, clicking an existing Event Component from the Suggestions menu will autopopulate these fields, along with their source ID and description. To clear any fields before submitting the event component, use the 'Clear process,' 'Clear object,' or 'Clear action' buttons. If a desired term does not exist, a new term request may be made via Term Requests. Event components may not be edited; to edit an event component, remove the existing event component and create a new one using the terms that you wish to add. More help
Process Object Action
synaptic signaling decreased

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event

All of the AOPs that are linked to this KE will automatically be listed in this subsection. This table can be particularly useful for derivation of AOP networks including the KE. Clicking on the name of the AOP will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Role of event in AOP Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Binding of antagonist to NMDARs impairs cognition KeyEvent Anna Price (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
nAChR activation - colony death/failure2 KeyEvent Carlie LaLone (send email) Open for comment. Do not cite
nAChR activation - colony loss 8 KeyEvent Carlie LaLone (send email) Open for comment. Do not cite
NIS inhibition and learning and memory impairment KeyEvent Anna Price (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
Oxidative stress and Developmental impairment in learning and memory KeyEvent Marie-Gabrielle Zurich (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite EAGMST Under Review


This is a structured field used to identify specific agents (generally chemicals) that can trigger the KE. Stressors identified in this field will be linked to the KE in a machine-readable manner, such that, for example, a stressor search would identify this as an event the stressor can trigger. NOTE: intermediate or downstream KEs in one AOP may function as MIEs in other AOPs, meaning that stressor information may be added to the KE description, even if it is a downstream KE in the pathway currently under development.Information concerning the stressors that may trigger an MIE can be defined using a combination of structured and unstructured (free-text) fields. For example, structured fields may be used to indicate specific chemicals for which there is evidence of an interaction relevant to this MIE. By linking the KE description to a structured chemical name, it will be increasingly possible to link the MIE to other sources of chemical data and information, enhancing searchability and inter-operability among different data-sources and knowledgebases. The free-text section “Evidence for perturbation of this MIE by stressor” can be used both to identify the supporting evidence for specific stressors triggering the MIE as well as to define broad chemical categories or other properties that classify the stressors able to trigger the MIE for which specific structured terms may not exist. More help

Taxonomic Applicability

Latin or common names of a species or broader taxonomic grouping (e.g., class, order, family) can be selected from an ontology. In many cases, individual species identified in these structured fields will be those for which the strongest evidence used in constructing the AOP was available in relation to this KE. More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
humans Homo sapiens High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
mice Mus sp. High NCBI
cat Felis catus High NCBI

Life Stages

The structured ontology terms for life-stage are more comprehensive than those for taxa, but may still require further description/development and explanation in the free text section. More help
Life stage Evidence
During brain development High

Sex Applicability

No help message More help
Term Evidence
Mixed High

Key Event Description

A description of the biological state being observed or measured, the biological compartment in which it is measured, and its general role in the biology should be provided. For example, the biological state being measured could be the activity of an enzyme, the expression of a gene or abundance of an mRNA transcript, the concentration of a hormone or protein, neuronal activity, heart rate, etc. The biological compartment may be a particular cell type, tissue, organ, fluid (e.g., plasma, cerebrospinal fluid), etc. The role in the biology could describe the reaction that an enzyme catalyses and the role of that reaction within a given metabolic pathway; the protein that a gene or mRNA transcript codes for and the function of that protein; the function of a hormone in a given target tissue, physiological function of an organ, etc. Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs, KERs or AOPs. Only describe this KE as a single isolated measurable event/state. This will ensure that the KE is modular and can be used by other AOPs, thereby facilitating construction of AOP networks. More help

Biological state: There are striking differences in neuronal network formation and function among the developing and mature brain. The developing brain shows a slow maturation and a transient passage from spontaneous, long-duration action potentials to synaptically-triggered, short-duration action potentials.

Furthermore, at this precise developmental stage the neuronal network is characterised by "hyperexcitability”, which is related to the increased number of local circuit recurrent excitatory synapses and the lack of γ-amino-butyric acid A (GABAA)-mediated inhibitory function that appears much later. This “hyperexcitability” disappears with maturation when pairing of the pre- and postsynaptic partners occurs and synapses are formed generating population of postsynaptic potentials and population of spikes followed by developmental GABA switch. Glutamatergic neurotransmission is dominant at early stages of development and NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents are far more times longer than those in maturation, allowing more calcium to enter the neurons. The processes that are involved in increased calcium influx and the subsequent intracellular events seem to play a critical role in establishment of wiring of neural circuits and strengthening of synaptic connections during development (reviewed in Erecinska et al., 2004). Neurons that do not receive glutaminergic stimulation are undergoing developmental apoptosis.

During the neonatal period, the brain is subject to profound alterations in neuronal circuitry due to high levels of synaptogenesis and gliogenesis. For example, in neuroendocrine regions such as the preoptic area-anterior hypothalamus (POA-AH), the site of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) system is developmentally regulated by glutamatergic neurons. The changes in the expression of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits NR1 and NR2B system begin early in postnatal development, before the onset of puberty, thereby playing a role in establishing the appropriate environment for the subsequent maturation of GnRH neurons (Adams et al., 1999).

Biological compartments: Neural network formation and function happen in all brain regions but it appears to onset at different time points of development (reviewed in Erecinska et al., 2004). Glutamatergic neurotransmission in hippocampus is poorly developed at birth. Initially, NMDA receptors play important role but the vast majority of these premature glutamatergic synapses are “silent” possibly due to delayed development of hippocampal AMPA receptors. In contrast, in the cerebral cortex the maturation of excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission happens much earlier. The “silent” synapses disappear by PND 7-8 in both brain regions mentioned above.

There is strong evidence suggesting that NMDA receptor subunit composition controls synaptogenesis and synapse stabilization (Gambrill and Barria, 2011). It is established fact that during early postnatal development in the rat hippocampus, synaptogenesis occurs in parallel with a developmental switch in the subunit composition of NMDA receptors from NR2B to NR2A. It is suggested that early expression of NR2A in organotypic hippocampal slices reduces the number of synapses and the volume and dynamics of spines. In contrast, overexpression of NR2B does not affect the normal number and growth of synapses. However, it does increase spine motility, adding and retracting spines at a higher rate. The C terminus of NR2B, and specifically its ability to bind CaMKII, is sufficient to allow proper synapse formation and maturation. Conversely, the C terminus of NR2A was sufficient to stop the development of synapse number and spine growth. These results indicate that the ratio of synaptic NR2B over NR2A controls spine motility and synaptogenesis, and suggest a structural role for the intracellular C terminus of NR2 in recruiting the signalling and scaffolding molecules necessary for proper synaptogenesis. Interestingly, it was found that genetic deletion of NR3A accelerates glutamatergic synaptic transmission, as measured by AMPAR-mediated postsynaptic currents recorded in hippocampal CA1. Consistent, the deletion of NR3A accelerates the expression of the glutamate receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and GluR1 sugesting that glutamatergic synapse maturation is critically dependent upon activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors (Henson et al., 2012).

General role in biology: The development of neuronal networks can be distinguished into two phases: an early ‘establishment’ phase of neuronal connections, where activity-dependent and independent mechanisms could operate, and a later ‘maintenance’ phase, which appears to be controlled by neuronal activity (Yuste and Sur, 1999). These neuronal networks facilitate information flow that is necessary to produce complex behaviors, including learning and memory (Mayford et al., 2012).

How It Is Measured or Detected

One of the primary considerations in evaluating AOPs is the relevance and reliability of the methods with which the KEs can be measured. The aim of this section of the KE description is not to provide detailed protocols, but rather to capture, in a sentence or two, per method, the type(s) of measurements that can be employed to evaluate the KE and the relative level of scientific confidence in those measurements. Methods that can be used to detect or measure the biological state represented in the KE should be briefly described and/or cited. These can range from citation of specific validated test guidelines, citation of specific methods published in the peer reviewed literature, or outlines of a general protocol or approach (e.g., a protein may be measured by ELISA).Key considerations regarding scientific confidence in the measurement approach include whether the assay is fit for purpose, whether it provides a direct or indirect measure of the biological state in question, whether it is repeatable and reproducible, and the extent to which it is accepted in the scientific and/or regulatory community. Information can be obtained from the OECD Test Guidelines website and the EURL ECVAM Database Service on Alternative Methods to Animal Experimentation (DB-ALM). ?

Methods that have been previously reviewed and approved by a recognized authority should be included in the Overview section above. All other methods, including those well established in the published literature, should be described here. Consider the following criteria when describing each method: 1. Is the assay fit for purpose? 2. Is the assay directly or indirectly (i.e. a surrogate) related to a key event relevant to the final adverse effect in question? 3. Is the assay repeatable? 4. Is the assay reproducible?

In vivo: The recording of brain activity by using electroencephalography (EEG), electrocorticography (ECoG) and local field potentials (LFP) assists towards the collection of signals generated by multiple neuronal cell networks. Advances in computer technology have allowed quantification of the EEG and expansion of quantitative EEG (qEEG) analysis providing a sensitive tool for time-course studies of different compounds acting on neuronal networks' function (Binienda et al., 2011). The number of excitatory or inhibitory synapses can be functionally studied at an electrophysiological level by examining the contribution of glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic inputs. The number of them can be determined by variably clamping the membrane potential and recording excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs or IPSCs) (Liu, 2004).

In vitro: Microelectrode array (MEA) recordings are also used to measure electrical activity in cultured neurons (Keefer et al., 2001, Gramowski et al., 2000; Gopal, 2003; Johnstone et al., 2010). MEAs can be applied in high throughput platforms to facilitate screening of numerous chemical compounds (McConnell et al., 2012). Using selective agonists and antagonists of different classes of receptors their response can be evaluated in a quantitative manner (Novellino et al., 2011; Hogberg et al., 2011).

Patch clamping technique can also be used to measure neuronal network activity.In some cases, if required, planar patch clamping technique can also be used to measure neuronal networks activity (e.g., Bosca et al., 2014).

Domain of Applicability

This free text section should be used to elaborate on the scientific basis for the indicated domains of applicability and the WoE calls (if provided). While structured terms may be selected to define the taxonomic, life stage and sex applicability (see structured applicability terms, above) of the KE, the structured terms may not adequately reflect or capture the overall biological applicability domain (particularly with regard to taxa). Likewise, the structured terms do not provide an explanation or rationale for the selection. The free-text section on evidence for taxonomic, life stage, and sex applicability can be used to elaborate on why the specific structured terms were selected, and provide supporting references and background information.  More help

In vitro studies in brain slices applying electrophysiological techniques showed significant variability among species (immature rats, rabbits and kittens) related to synaptic latency, duration, amplitude and efficacy in spike initiation (reviewed in Erecinska et al., 2004).


List of the literature that was cited for this KE description. Ideally, the list of references, should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide ( (OECD, 2015). More help

Adams MM, Flagg RA, Gore AC., Perinatal changes in hypothalamic N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and their relationship to gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons. Endocrinology. 1999 May;140(5):2288-96.

Binienda ZK, Beaudoin MA, Thorn BT, Ali SF. (2011) Analysis of electrical brain waves in neurotoxicology: γ-hydroxybutyrate. Curr Neuropharmacol. 9: 236-239.

Bosca, A., M. Martina, and C. Py (2014) Planar patch clamp for neuronal networks--considerations and future perspectives. Methods Mol Biol, 2014. 1183: p. 93-113.

Erecinska M, Cherian S, Silver IA. (2004) Energy metabolism in mammalian brain during development. Prog Neurobiol. 73: 397-445.

Gambrill AC, Barria A. NMDA receptor subunit composition controls synaptogenesis and synapse stabilization. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011:108(14):5855-60.

Gopal K. (2003) Neurotoxic effects of mercury on auditory cortex networks growing on microelectrode arrays: a preliminary analysis. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 25: 69-76.

Gramowski A, Schiffmann D, Gross GW. (2000) Quantification of acute neurotoxic effects of trimethyltin using neuronal networks cultures on microelectrode arrays. Neurotoxicology 21: 331-342.

Henson MA, Larsen RS, Lawson SN, Pérez-Otaño I, Nakanishi N, Lipton SA, Philpot BD. (2012) Genetic deletion of NR3A accelerates glutamatergic synapse maturation. PLoS One. 7(8).

Hogberg HT, Sobanski T, Novellino A, Whelan M, Weiss DG, Bal-Price AK. (2011) Application of micro-electrode arrays (MEAs) as an emerging technology for developmental neurotoxicity: evaluation of domoic acid-induced effects in primary cultures of rat cortical neurons. Neurotoxicology 32: 158-168.

Johnstone AFM, Gross GW, Weiss D, Schroeder O, Shafer TJ. (2010) Use of microelectrode arrays for neurotoxicity testing in the 21st century Neurotoxicology 31: 331-350.

Keefer E, Norton S, Boyle N, Talesa V, Gross G. (2001) Acute toxicity screening of novel AChE inhibitors using neuronal networks on microelectrode arrays. Neurotoxicology 22: 3-12.

Liu G. (2004) Local structural balance and functional interaction of excitatory and inhibitory synapses in hippocampal dendrites. Nat Neurosci. 7: 373-379.

Mayford M, Siegelbaum SA, Kandel ER. (2012) Synapses and memory storage. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 4. pii: a005751.

McConnell ER, McClain MA, Ross J, LeFew WR, Shafer TJ. (2012) Evaluation of multi-well microelectrode arrays for neurotoxicity screening using a chemical training set. Neurotoxicology 33: 1048-1057.

Novellino A, Scelfo B, Palosaari T, Price A, Sobanski T, Shafer TJ, Johnstone AF, Gross GW, Gramowski A, Schroeder O, Jügelt K, Chiappalone M, Benfenati F, Martinoia S, Tedesco MT, Defranchi E, D'Angelo P, Whelan M. (2011) Development of micro-electrode array based tests for neurotoxicity: assessment of interlaboratory reproducibility with neuroactive chemicals. Front Neuroeng. 4: 4.

Yuste R, Peinado A, Katz LC. (1992) Neuronal domains in developing neocortex. Science 257: 665-669.