J. Neurochem. (2009) 109, 716–732.
Transmitter release at high probability phasic synapses of crayfish neuromuscular junctions depresses by over 50% in 60 min when stimulated at 0.2 Hz. Inhibition of the protein phosphatase calcineurin by intracellular pre-synaptic injection of autoinhibitory peptide inhibited low-frequency depression (LFD) and resulted in facilitation of transmitter release. Since this inhibitor had no major effects when injected into the post-synaptic cell, only pre-synaptic calcineurin activity is necessary for LFD. To examine changes in phosphoproteins during LFD we performed a phosphoproteomic screen on proteins extracted from motor axons and nerve terminals after LFD induction or treatment with various drugs that affect kinase and phosphatase activity. Proteins separated by PAGE were stained with phospho-specific/total protein ratio stains (Pro-Q Diamond/SYPRO Ruby) to identify protein bands for analysis by mass spectrometry. Phosphorylation of actin and tubulin decreased during LFD, but increased when calcineurin was blocked. Tubulin and phosphoactin immunoreactivity in pre-synaptic terminals were also reduced after LFD. The actin depolymerizing drugs cytochalasin and latrunculin and the microtubule stabilizer taxol inhibited LFD. Therefore, dephosphorylation of pre-synaptic actin and tubulin and consequent changes in the cytoskeleton may regulate LFD. LFD is unlike long-term depression found in mammalian synapses because the latter requires in most instances post-synaptic calcineurin activity.Thus, this simpler invertebrate synapse discloses a novel pre-synaptic depression mechanism.