Synaptic plasticity can last from a fraction of a second to weeks depending on how it was induced. The mechanisms that underlie short-, intermediate-, and long-term plasticity have been intensively studied at central synapses of both vertebrates and invertebrates; however, peripheral plasticity has not received as much attention. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms that contribute to a persistent form of plasticity at neuromuscular synapses in buccal muscle I3a of Aplysia. These synapses are reversibly facilitated by the small cardioactive peptide (SCP), a peptide cotransmitter that is intrinsic to the motor neurons, and persistently facilitated by serotonin (5HT) released from modulatory neurons that are extrinsic to the motor circuit. Many of the short-term effects of 5HT and SCP are mediated by the cAMP pathway, but little is known about the mechanisms that underlie persistent modulation. We were able to eliminate several possible mechanisms. One of these was the possibility that the apparent reversal of SCP's effects was due to desensitization of the SCP receptor. Superfusion for longer periods or with higher concentrations of SCP indicate that the SCP receptors do not desensitize. We also determined that new protein synthesis is not required for the persistent facilitation of EJPs. Another possibility was that 5HT was taken up and slowly re-released. Our results suggest that this mechanism is also unlikely. Activation of the cAMP pathway does not appear to mediate persistent effects; however, 5HT as well as SCP does cause persistent increases in cAMP levels that can prime I3a synapses and increase the effectiveness of activators of the cAMP pathway. Instead, the persistent effects of 5HT are mimicked by phorbol, suggesting that protein kinase C or an Aplysia homologue of unc13 may mediate these effects. These results, in combination with results from experiments on the sensory neurons that contribute to withdrawal reflexes in Aplysia, suggest that the mechanisms for intermediate- and long-term facilitation may reside in all of the synapses involved in the sensory to motor response reflex.
Title and Abstract from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Data mined from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Last MEDLINE®/PubMed® update: 1st of December 2015