Synaptic facilitation and behavioral sensitization in Aplysia: possible role of serotonin and cyclic AMP

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Science  10 Dec 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4270, pp. 1178-1181
DOI: 10.1126/science.186870


The neural changes accompanying sensitization of the gill-withdrawal reflex in Aplysia are associated with presynaptic facilitation at monosynaptic connections between sensory neurons and motor cells. To analyze the molecular mechanisms underlying the facilitation, the pharmacological actions of serotonin, octopamine, and dopamine were examined. Only serotonin enhanced synaptic transmission between the sensory and the motor neurons. A serotonin antagonist, cinanserin, reversibly blocked the synaptic facilitation. The action of serotonin may be mediated by adenosime 3',5'-monophosphate (cyclic AMP). Exposing the ganglion to dibutyryl cyclic AMP or injecting cyclic AMP into the cell body enhances the synaptic action of a sensory neuron. The mechanism of presynaptic facilitation, therefore, may include activation of one or more serotonergic neurons, which enhance the release of a neurotransmitter by increasing the intracellular concentration of cyclic AMP in the terminals of the sensory neurons.

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