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Keywords:

  • cell culture;
  • electrophysiology;
  • G-proteins;
  • synapse;
  • synaptic transmission

Abstract

Neuromodulation is central to all nervous system function, although the precise mechanisms by which neurotransmitters affect synaptic efficacy between central neurons remain to be fully elucidated. In this study, we examined the neuromodulatory action of serotonin [5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)] at central synapses between identified neurons from the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. Using whole-cell voltage-clamp and sharp electrode recording, we show that 5-HT strongly depresses synaptic strength between cultured, cholinergic neuron visceral dorsal 4 (VD4 − presynaptic) and its serotonergic target left pedal dorsal 1 (LPeD1 − postsynaptic). This inhibition was accompanied by a reduction in synaptic depression, but had no effect on postsynaptic input resistance, indicating a presynaptic origin. In addition, serotonin inhibited the presynaptic calcium current (ICa) on a similar time course as the change in synaptic transmission. Introduction of a non-condensable GDP analog, GDP-β-S, through the presynaptic pipette inhibited the serotonin-mediated effect on ICa. Similar results were obtained with a membrane-impermeable inactive cAMP analog, 8OH-cAMP. Furthermore, stimulation of the serotonergic postsynaptic cell also inhibited presynaptic currents, indicating the presence of a negative feedback loop between LPeD1 and VD4. Taken together, this study provides direct evidence for a negative feedback mechanism, whereby the activity of a presynaptic respiratory central pattern-generating neuron is regulated by its postsynaptic target cell. We demonstrate that either serotonin or LPeD1 activity-induced depression of presynaptic transmitter release from VD4 involves voltage-gated calcium channels and is mediated through a G-protein-coupled and cAMP-mediated system.