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Keywords:

  • rat;
  • synapse elimination;
  • synaptogenesis;
  • silent synapses

Abstract

By using intracellular recording, we studied how protein kinase C (PKC) activity affected transmitter release in singly and dually innervated endplates of the Levator auris longus muscle of 5–6-day-old rats during axonal competition in the postnatal synaptic elimination period. In dually innervated fibers, a second endplate potential (EPP) may appear after the first one when the stimulation intensity is increased. The nerve terminals that generate the lowest and the highest EPP amplitudes are designated “small-EPP generating ending” (SEGE) and “large-EPP generating ending” (LEGE), respectively. Blocking PKC with calphostin C, staurosporine, or chelerythrine results in an increased release from SEGE (∼80%), whereas release from LEGE and from endings generating only one EPP (OEGE) is not significantly affected. Blocking PKC also leads to the recruitment of silent synapses (acetylcholine cannot be released before PKC inhibition). The mean number of functional axon terminals per synapse increases by ∼47%, and these are now designated the “recruited-EPP generating endings” (REGE). This suggests that axonal PKC can modulate postnatal synaptic elimination by favoring the nerve terminal disconnection of certain weak axonal endings (REGE and SEGE). We conclude that a PKC-mediated mechanism should occupy a pivotal place in neonatal synapse elimination, because functional axonal withdrawal can indeed be turned back by PKC block. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.