Quantitation of contacts among sensory, motor, and serotonergic neurons in the pedal ganglion of aplysia.

Publication Date



Learn Mem. 2003 Sep-Oct;10(5):387-93.Click here to read


Present models of long-term sensitization in Aplysia californica indicate that the enhanced behavioral response is due, at least in part, to outgrowth of sensory neurons mediating defensive withdrawal reflexes. Presumably, this outgrowth strengthens pre-existing connections by formation of new synapses with follower neurons. However, the relationship between the number of sensorimotor contacts and the physiological strength of the connection has never been examined in intact ganglia. As a first step in addressing this issue, we used confocal microscopy to examine sites of contact between sensory and motor neurons in naive animals. Our results revealed relatively few contacts between physiologically connected cells. In addition, the number of contact sites was proportional to the amplitude of the EPSP elicited in the follower motor neuron by direct stimulation of the sensory neuron. This is the first time such a correlation has been observed in the central nervous system. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter most closely examined for its role in modulating synaptic strength at the sensorimotor synapse. However, the structural relationship of serotonergic processes and sensorimotor synapses has never been examined. Surprisingly, serotonergic processes usually made contact with sensory and motor neurons at sites located relatively distant from the sensorimotor synapse. This result implies that heterosynaptic regulation is due to nondirected release of serotonin into the neuropil.


Animals, Aplysia, Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials, Ganglia, Invertebrate, Immunohistochemistry, Microscopy, Confocal, Motor Neurons, Neural Pathways, Neurons, Afferent, Serotonin, Synapses


PMCID: PMC218004

doi: 10.1101/lm.63903