Long-term hyperexcitability of sensory and motor axons in Aplysia californica: Induction by axotomy, serotonin, and transient depolarization

Ramal Majintha Silva Weragoda, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Neuropathic pain is a debilitating neurological disorder that may appear after peripheral nerve trauma and is characterized by persistent, intractable pain. The well-studied phenomenon of long-term hyperexcitability (LTH), in which sensory somata become hyperexcitable following peripheral nerve injury may be important for both chronic pain and long-lasting memory formation, since similar cellular alterations take place after both injury and learning. Though axons have previously been considered simple conducting cables, spontaneous afferent signals develop from some neuromas that form at severed nerve tips, indicating intrinsic changes in sensory axonal excitability may contribute to this intractable pain. Here we show that nerve transection, exposure to serotonin, and transient depolarization induce long-lasting sensory axonal hyperexcitability that is localized to the treated nerve segment and requires local translation of new proteins. Long-lasting functional plasticity may be a general property of axons, since both injured and transiently depolarized motor axons display LTH as well. Axonal hyperexcitability may represent an adaptive mechanism to overcome conduction failure after peripheral injury, but also displays key features shared with cellular analogues of memory including: site-specific changes in neuronal function, dependence on transient, focal depolarization for induction, and requirement for synthesis of new proteins for expression of long-lasting effects. The finding of axonal hyperexcitability after nerve injury sheds new light on the clinical problem of chronic neuropathic pain, and provides more support for the hypothesis that mechanisms of long-term memory storage evolved from primitive adaptive responses to injury.

Subject Area

Neurology|Anatomy & physiology

Recommended Citation

Weragoda, Ramal Majintha Silva, "Long-term hyperexcitability of sensory and motor axons in Aplysia californica: Induction by axotomy, serotonin, and transient depolarization" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3256565.