The role of the intracellular second messengercAMP in the induction of long-term morphological changes in sensory neurons of Aplysia

Fidelma Anne Nazif, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The present work examines the role of cAMP in the induction of the type of long-term morphological changes that have been shown to be correlated with long-term sensitization in Aplysia. To examine this issue, cAMP was injected into individual tail sensory neurons in the pleural ganglion to mimic, at the single cell level, the effects of behavioral training. After a 22 hr incubation period, the same cells were filled with horseradish peroxidase and 2 hours later the tissue was fixed and processed. Morphological analysis revealed that cAMP induced an increase in two morphological features of the neurons, varicosities and branch points. These structural alterations, which are similar to those seen in siphon sensory neurons of the abdominal ganglion following long-term sensitization training of the siphon-gill withdrawal reflex, could subserve the altered behavioral response of the animal. These results expose another role played by cAMP in the induction of learning, the initiation of a structural substrate, which, in concert with other correlates, underlies learning. cAMP was injected into sensory neurons in the presence of the reversible protein synthesis inhibitor, anisomycin. The presence of anisomycin during and immediately following the nucleotide injection completely blocked the structural remodeling. These results indicate that the induction of morphological changes by cAMP is a process dependent on protein synthesis. To further examine the temporal requirement for protein synthesis in the induction of these changes, the time of anisomycin exposure was varied. The results indicate that the cellular processes triggered by cAMP are sensitive to the inhibition of protein synthesis for at least 7 hours after the nucleotide injection. This is a longer period of sensitivity than that for the induction of another correlate of long-term sensitization, facilitation of the sensory to motor neuron synaptic connection. Thus, these findings demonstrate that the period of sensitivity to protein synthesis inhibition is not identical for all correlates of learning. In addition, since the induction of the morphological changes can be blocked by anisomycin pulses administered at different times during and following the cAMP injection, this suggests that cAMP is triggering a cascade of protein synthesis, with successive rounds of synthesis being dependent on successful completion of preceding rounds. Inhibition at any time during this cascade can block the entire process and so prevent the development of the structural changes. The extent to which cAMP can mimic the structural remodeling induced by long-term training was also examined. Animals were subjected to unilateral sensitization training and the morphology of the sensory neurons was examined twenty-four hours later. Both cAMP injection and long-term training produced a twofold increase in varicosities and approximately a fifty percent increase in the number of branch points in the sensory neuron arborization within the pleural ganglion. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Neurology

Recommended Citation

Nazif, Fidelma Anne, "The role of the intracellular second messengercAMP in the induction of long-term morphological changes in sensory neurons of Aplysia" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9417562.