Modulation of presynaptic action potential kinetics underlies synaptic facilitation of type B photoreceptos after associative conditioning in Hermissenda

Chetan C. Gandhi, Louis D. Matzel

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Descriptions of conditioned response generation in Hermissenda stipulate that the synaptic interaction between type B and A photoreceptors should be enhanced after associative pairings of light and rotation. Although evidence from several laboratories has confirmed this assumption, the mechanism underlying this synaptic facilitation has not been elucidated. Here we report that in vitro conditioning (i.e., light paired with stimulation of vestibular hair cells) modifies the kinetics of presynaptic action potentials in the B photoreceptor in a manner sufficient to account for this synaptic facilitation. After paired training, we observe an increase in the duration of evoked action potentials and decrease in the amplitude of the spike afterhyperpolarization in the B-cell. As previously reported, paired training also enhanced the excitability (i.e., input resistance and evoked spike rate) of the B photoreceptor. In a second experiment, simultaneous recordings were made in type B and A photoreceptors, an paired training was found to produce an increase in the amplitude of the IPSP in the A photoreceptor in response to an evoked spike in the B-cell. Importantly, there was no change in the initial slope of the postsynaptic IPSP in the A photoreceptor, suggesting that spike duration-independent mechanisms of neurotransmitter exocytosis or postsynaptic receptor sensitivity did not contribute to the observed synaptic facilitation. Perfusion of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) mimicked a known effect of behavioral conditioning in that it specifically reduced the amplitude of the transient voltage-dependent K± current (I(A)) in the B-cell, but in addition, produced action potential broadening and synaptic facilitation that was analogous to that observed after in vitro conditioning. Finally, the effect of 4-AP on B-cell action potentials and on the postsynaptic IPSP in the A-cell was occluded by previous paired (but not unpaired) training, suggesting that the prolongation of the B-cell action potential by a reduction of I(A) was sufficient to account for the observed synaptic facilitation. The occlusion of the effects of 4-AP by paired training was not attributable to a saturation of the capacity of the B-cell for transmitter exocytosis, because it was observed that tetraemylammonium (TEA)-induced inhibition of the delayed voltage-dependent K± current induced both spike broadening and synaptic facilitation regardless of training-induced facilitation at B-cell synapses is attributable to the effects of reduction on a presynaptic K± conductance on action potential kinetics and suggest another critical similarity between the cellular basis for learning in Hermissenda and other invertebrate systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2022-2035
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Associative learning
  • Exocytosis
  • Hermissenda
  • K± channels
  • Spike broadening
  • Synaptic facilitation


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