Mechanisms of heterosynaptic modulation of transmission in Aplysia

Diasinou Fioravante, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Heterosynaptic plasticity has received considerable attention as a means to induce and maintain cell-wide, as opposed to synapse-specific, learning-related modifications. Modulatory neurotransmitters are thought to provide the attentional and motivational state for memory formation. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of most of these modulators on synaptic plasticity and learning remain unclear. A well established system for the study of heterosynaptic plasticity is the Aplysia sensorimotor synapse, which is subject regulation by at least two neuromodulators, serotonin (5-HT) and FMRFa. 5-HT engages multiple second messenger cascades to induce short- and long-term facilitation (STF and LTF, respectively) of synaptic transmission. One mechanism proposed to be involved in STF is mobilization of synaptic vesicles from a storage pool to a releasable pool. To investigate this hypothesis, we examined the involvement of the protein synapsin, a central element in the regulation of the storage pool of vesicles in nerve terminals, in STF. 5-HT induced phosphorylation of synapsin and modified its subcellular distribution via PKA and p42/44 MAPK. Electrophysiological experiments and computer simulations suggested that synapsin can support heterosynaptic plasticity by regulating vesicle mobilization. FMRFa induce short- and long-term synaptic depression in Aplysia . Long-term depression (LTD) correlates with morphological changes, the mechanisms of which remain elusive. LTD is also transcription- and translation-dependent, but little is known about the genes expressed and their regulation. We investigated the role of protein degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the regulation of one of its components, ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase (ap-uch), in LTD. LTD was sensitive to inhibition of the proteasome and was associated with upregulation of ap-uch mRNA and protein. This upregulation appeared to be mediated by the transcription factor CREB2, which is generally regarded as a transcription repressor. These results suggest that proteasome-mediated protein degradation is engaged in LTD and that CREB2 may act as a transcription activator under certain conditions. These and additional studies on the interaction of the 5-HT and FMRFa-activated pathways suggest that different neuromodulators, by activating several and sometimes overlapping signaling cascades, can exercise bidirectional control on synaptic gain and information processing.

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Recommended Citation

Fioravante, Diasinou, "Mechanisms of heterosynaptic modulation of transmission in Aplysia" (2006). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3231738.