Intracellular chemical messengers and neuronal function: Two examples

Kenneth Paul Scholz, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Two distinct classes of neurons have been examined in the nervous system of Aplysia. The membrane properties of these neurons are regulated by intracellular signalling molecules in both a short-term and a long-term fashion. The role of the phosphatidylinositol cycle in the control of neuronal properties was studied in a class of bursting pacemaker cells, the left upper-quadrant bursting neurons (cells L2, L3, L4, and L6) of the abdominal ganglion of Aplysia. These cells display a regular burst-firing pattern that is controlled by cyclic changes of intracellular Ca$\sp{2+}$ that occur during the bursting rhythm. The characteristic bursting pattern of these neurons occurs within a range of membrane potentials ($-35$ to $-50$ mV) called the pacemaker range. Intracellular pressure injection of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP$\sb3$) altered the bursting rhythm of the bursting cells. Injection of IP$\sb3$ induced a brief depolarization that was followed by a long-lasting (2-15 min) hyperpolarization. When cells were voltage-clamped at potentials within the pacemaker range, injection of IP$\sb3$ generally induced a biphasic response that had a total duration of 2-15 min. An initial inward shift in holding current (I$\sb{\rm in}$), which lasted 5-120 sec, was followed by a slow outward shift in holding current (I$\sb{\rm out}$). At membrane potentials more negative than $-40$ mV, I$\sb{\rm in}$ was associated with a small and relatively voltage-independent increase in membrane conductance. I$\sb{\rm in}$ was not blocked by bath application of TTX or Co$\sp{2+}$. Although I$\sb{\rm in}$ was activated by injection of IP$\sb3$, it was not blocked by iontophoretic injection of ethyleneglycol-bis-(beta-aminoethyl ether), N, N$\sp\prime$-tetraacetic acid (EGTA) sufficient to block the Ca$\sp{2+}$-activated inward tail current (I$\sb{\rm B}$). Long-term (lasting at least 24 hours) effects of adenylate cyclase activation were examined in a well characterized class of mechanosensory neurons in Aplysia. The injected cells were analyzed 24 hours later by two-electrode voltage-clamp techniques. We found that K$\sp+$ currents of these cells were reduced 24 hours after injection of cAMP. The currents that were reduced by cAMP were very similar to those found to be reduced 24 hours after behavioral sensitization. These results suggest that cAMP is part of the intracellular signal that induces long-term sensitization in Aplysia. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

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Recommended Citation

Scholz, Kenneth Paul, "Intracellular chemical messengers and neuronal function: Two examples" (1988). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8826288.