Target-dependent structural changes accompanying long-term synaptic facilitation in Aplysia neurons

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Science  17 Aug 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4970, pp. 799-802
DOI: 10.1126/science.2389145


The mechanisms underlying structural changes that accompany learning and memory have been difficult to investigate in the intact nervous system. In order to make these changes more accessible for experimental analysis, dissociated cell culture and low-light-level video microscopy were used to examine Aplysia sensory neurons in the presence or absence of their target cells. Repeated applications of serotonin, a facilitating transmitter important in behavioral dishabituation and sensitization, produced growth of the sensory neurons that paralleled the long-term enhancement of synaptic strength. This growth required the presence of the postsynaptic motor neuron. Thus, both the structural changes and the synaptic facilitation of Aplysia sensorimotor synapses accompanying long-term behavioral sensitization can be produced in vitro by applying a single facilitating transmitter repeatedly. These structural changes depend on an interaction of the presynaptic neuron with an appropriate postsynaptic target.

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