TGF-beta1 in Aplysia: role in long-term changes in the excitability of sensory neurons and distribution of TbetaR-II-like immunoreactivity.

Publication Date



Learn Mem. 1999 May; 6(3): 317–330.


Exogenous recombinant human transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-beta1) induced long-term facilitation of Aplysia sensory-motor synapses. In addition, 5-HT-induced facilitation was blocked by application of a soluble fragment of the extracellular portion of the TGF-beta1 type II receptor (TbetaR-II), which presumably acted by scavenging an endogenous TGF-beta1-like molecule. Because TbetaR-II is essential for transmembrane signaling by TGF-beta, we sought to determine whether Aplysia tissues contained TbetaR-II and specifically, whether neurons expressed the receptor. Western blot analysis of Aplysia tissue extracts demonstrated the presence of a TbetaR-II-immunoreactive protein in several tissue types. The expression and distribution of TbetaR-II-immunoreactive proteins in the central nervous system was examined by immunohistochemistry to elucidate sites that may be responsive to TGF-beta1 and thus may play a role in synaptic plasticity. Sensory neurons in the ventral-caudal cluster of the pleural ganglion were immunoreactive for TbetaR-II, as well as many neurons in the pedal, abdominal, buccal, and cerebral ganglia. Sensory neurons cultured in isolation and cocultured sensory and motor neurons were also immunoreactive. TGF-beta1 affected the biophysical properties of cultured sensory neurons, inducing an increase of excitability that persisted for at least 48 hr. Furthermore, exposure to TGF-beta1 resulted in a reduction in the firing threshold of sensory neurons. These results provide further support for the hypothesis that TGF-beta1 plays a role in long-term synaptic plasticity in Aplysia.


Animals, Aplysia, Blotting, Western, Cells, Cultured, Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel, Electrophysiology, Ganglia, Invertebrate, Immunohistochemistry, Membranes, Neurons, Afferent, Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Transforming Growth Factor beta


PMCID: PMC311291