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Keywords:

  • calcium ions;
  • polyneuronal innervation;
  • silent synapses;
  • synapse elimination;
  • synaptogenesis

Abstract

We studied the relation among calcium inflows, voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCC), presynaptic muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs), and protein kinase C (PKC) activity in the modulation of synapse elimination. We used intracellular recording to determine the synaptic efficacy in dually innervated endplates of the levator auris longus muscle of newborn rats during axonal competition in the postnatal synaptic elimination period. In these dual junctions, the weak nerve terminal was potentiated by partially reducing calcium entry (P/Q-, N-, or L-type VDCC-specific block or 500 μM magnesium ions), M1- or M4-type selective mAChR block, or PKC block. Moreover, reducing calcium entry or blocking PKC or mAChRs results in unmasking functionally silent nerve endings that now recover neurotransmitter release. Our results show interactions between these molecules and indicate that there is a release inhibition mechanism based on an mAChR-PKC-VDCC intracellular cascade. When it is fully active in certain weak motor axons, it can depress ACh release and even disconnect synapses. We suggest that this mechanism plays a central role in the elimination of redundant neonatal synapses, because functional axonal withdrawal can indeed be reversed by mAChRs, VDCCs, or PKC block. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.