Role of protein kinase C in short-term sensitization of Aplysia

Shuzo Sugita, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Plasticity at the connections between sensory neurons and their follower cells in Aplysia has been used extensively as a model system to examine mechanisms of simple forms of learning, such as sensitization. Sensitization is induced, at least in part, by the transmitter serotonin (5-HT) and expressed in several forms, including facilitation of sensorimotor connections. Spike broadening has been believed to be a key mechanism underlying facilitation of nondepressed synapses. Previously, this broadening was believed to be dependent primarily on cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA)-mediated reduction of a noninactivating, relatively voltage-independent K$\sp{+}$ current termed the S-K$\sp+$ current (I$\sb{\rm K{,}S}$). Recent evidence, however, suggests that 5-HT-induced somatic spike broadening is composed of at least two components: a cAMP-dependent, rapidly developing component and a cAMP-independent, slowly developing component. Phorbol esters, activators of protein kinase C (PKC), mimicked the cAMP-independent component of 5-HT-induced broadening. Staurosporine, which inhibits PKC, had little effect on the rapidly developing component of 5-HT-induced broadening, but inhibited significantly the slowly developing component. These results suggest that PKC is involved in the cAMP-independent component of 5-HT-induced broadening. The membrane currents responsible for the slowly developing component of broadening were examined. Activation of PKC mimicked, and partially occluded, 5-HT-induced modulation of membrane currents above 0 mV, where a voltage-dependent K$\sp+$ current (I$\sb{\rm K{,}V}$) is significantly activated. This modulation was complex because it was associated with a reduction in the magnitude of I$\sb{\rm K{,}V}$, as well as a slowing of both activation and inactivation kinetics of I$\sb{\rm K{,}V}$. These results support the hypothesis that PKC modulates I$\sb{\rm K{,}V}$ and that this modulation contributes to the slowly developing component of 5-HT-induced broadening. Based on these results and others, a new scheme for 5-HT-induced spike broadening is proposed in which the modulatory effects are mediated via two second messenger/protein kinase systems converging and diverging on multiple ionic conductances. The relationship between spike broadening and synaptic facilitation was also examined. Pharmacological reduction of I$\sb{\rm K{,}V}$ by low concentrations of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) led to spike broadening and facilitation of the nondepressed sensorimotor connections, indicating that spike broadening via the reduction of I$\sc{K,V}$ can facilitate the synaptic connection. Further analyses, however, revealed that 4-AP-induced facilitation has qualitative differences from 5-HT- and PKC-induced facilitation. These results suggest that 5-HT- and PKC-induced facilitation of nondepressed synapses is mediated, at least in part, by spike-duration independent (SDI) processes. Under certain conditions, the PKC inhibitor, staurosporine, significantly inhibited the 5-HT-induced facilitation of sensorimotor connections. Finally, it was found that activation of PKC increased a basal level of cAMP and that PKC caused desensitization of the 5-HT receptor, which may be a possible negative feedback mechanism through which an extracellular ligand, 5-HT, is regulated. These results suggest that these two second messenger/protein kinase pathways can interact in the sensory neuron. Thus, neuronal plasticity that may contribute to learning and memory appears to involve several complex and interactive processes.

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Recommended Citation

Sugita, Shuzo, "Role of protein kinase C in short-term sensitization of Aplysia" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9512008.