Diphasic Postsynaptic Potential: A Chemical Synapse Capable of Mediating Conjoint Excitation and Inhibition

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Science  12 May 1972:
Vol. 176, Issue 4035, pp. 675-678
DOI: 10.1126/science.176.4035.675


Two identified interneurons in each buccal ganglion of Aplysia can mediate conjoined excitation and inhibition to a single follower cell. A single presynaptic action potential in one of these interneurons produces a diphasic, depolarizing-hyperpolarizing synaptic potential apparently as a result of a single transmitter acting on two types of postsynaptic receptors in the follower cell. These receptors produce synaptic potentials with differing reversal potentials, ionic conductances, time courses, rates of decrement with repetition, pharmacological properties, and functional consequences. The excitatory receptor controls a sodium conductance, the inhibitory receptor controls a chloride conductance. Both components of the synaptic potentials can be produced by iontophoretic application of acetylcholine on the cell body of the follower cell, and each component is differentially sensitive to different cholinergic blocking agents.