Long-term facilitation in Aplysia involves increase in transmitter release

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Science  15 Jan 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4837, pp. 282-285
DOI: 10.1126/science.2892269


In a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates, long-lasting enhancement of synaptic transmission contributes to the storage of memory lasting one or more days. However, it has not been demonstrated directly whether this increase in synaptic transmission is caused by an enhancement of transmitter release or an increase in the sensitivity of the postsynaptic receptors. These possibilities can be distinguished by a quantal analysis in which the size of the miniature excitatory postsynaptic potential released spontaneously from the presynaptic terminal is used as a reference. By means of microcultures, in which single sensory and motor neurons of Aplysia were plated together, miniature excitatory postsynaptic potentials attributable to the spontaneous release of single transmitter quanta from individual presynaptic neurons were recorded and used to analyze long-term facilitation induced by repeated applications of 5-hydroxytryptamine. The results indicate that the facilitation is caused by an increase in the number of transmitter quanta released by the presynaptic neuron.