A Direct Synaptic Connection Mediating Both Excitation and Inhibition

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Science  01 Dec 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3805, pp. 1206-1208
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3805.1206


Neurons have generally been thought to produce only one synaptic action on any particular cell which they innervate. An identified interneuron in the abdominal ganglion of Aplysia mediates both direct excitation and inhibition to an identified follower cell. At low firing rates the interneuron produces excitatory postsynaptic potentials; however at higher firing rates these gradually diminish in size and eventually invert to inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. Electrophysiological and pharmacological evidence indicates that the connection between these cells is monosynaptic, and that a single transmitter, acetylcholine, mediates both actions. These opposite synaptic responses appear to result from the transmitter's acting on two types of postsynaptic receptors having different thresholds for activation and different susceptibilities for desensitization.