We investigated the roles of two Rab-family proteins, Rab3a and Rab5a, in hippocampal synaptic transmission using real-time fluorescence imaging. During synaptic activity, Rab3a dissociated from synaptic vesicles and dispersed into neighbouring axonal regions. Dispersion required calcium-dependent exocytosis and was complete before the entire vesicle pool turned over. In contrast, even prolonged synaptic activity produced limited dispersion of Rab5a. A GTPase-deficient mutant, Rab3a (Q81L), dispersed more slowly than wild-type Rab3a, and decreased the rate of exocytosis and the size of the recycling pool of vesicles. While overexpression of Rab3a did not affect vesicle recycling, overexpression of Rab5a reduced the recycling pool size by 50%. We propose that while Rab3a preferentially associates with recycling synaptic vesicles and modulates their trafficking, Rab5a is largely excluded from recycling vesicles.
The mitral-granule reciprocal synapse shapes the response of the olfactory bulb to odour stimuli by mediating lateral and reciprocal inhibition. We investigated the short-term plasticity of both the mitral-to-granule excitatory synapse and the granule-to-mitral inhibitory synapse in rat olfactory bulb slices, using whole-cell patch clamp recordings. The granule-to-mitral inhibitory synapse invariably exhibited paired-pulse depression at interstimulus intervals of less than a second, while the mitral-to-granule excitatory synapse showed heterogeneous responses, which on average yielded a moderate facilitation. Trains of stimuli led to a much greater depression at the granule-to-mitral synapse than at the mitral-to-granule synapse. Since mitral cells commonly respond to odours by burst firing with each inhalation cycle, we used bursts of stimuli to study recovery from depression. We found that recovery from depression induced by fast trains of stimuli was more rapid at the mitral-to-granule synapse than at the granule-to-mitral synapse. In addition, depression was enhanced by higher calcium concentrations, suggesting at least partial contribution of presynaptic mechanisms to short-term depression. The observed short-term plasticity could enable mitral cells to overcome autoinhibition and increase action potential propagation along lateral dendrites by burst firing.
Synaptic vesicles are recycled locally within presynaptic specializations. We examined how vesicles are reused after endocytosis, using transgenic mice expressing the genetically encoded fluorescent indicator synaptopHluorin in subsets of neurons. At both excitatory and inhibitory synapses in cultured hippocampal neurons, newly endocytosed vesicles did not preferentially enter the releasable pool of vesicles. Rather, they entered the reserve pool first and subsequently the readily releasable pool over a period of several minutes. All vesicles in the recycling pool could be accessed by spaced stimuli, arguing against preferential local reuse of the readily releasable vesicles. Interestingly, nearly half the vesicles at excitatory synapses, and a third at inhibitory synapses, could not be recruited for release even by sustained stimuli. We conclude that, at presynaptic terminals in the hippocampus, most vesicles vacate release sites after exocytosis and are replaced by existing vesicles from the reserve pool, placing constraints on kiss-and-run recycling.
Chronic changes in activity can induce neurons to alter the strength of all their synapses in unison. Although the specific changes that occur appear to vary depending on the experimental preparation, their net effect is to counter the experimentally induced modification of activity. Such adaptive, cell-wide changes in synaptic strength serve to stabilize neuronal activity and are collectively referred to as homeostatic synaptic plasticity. Recent studies have shed light on what triggers homeostatic synaptic plasticity, whether or not it is distinct from other forms of synaptic plasticity and whether or not it occurs in the intact brain.
Thermotactic behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans is sensitive to both a worm's ambient temperature (T(amb)) and its memory of the temperature of its cultivation (T(cult)). The AFD neuron is part of a neural circuit that underlies thermotactic behavior. By monitoring the fluorescence of pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein localized to synaptic vesicles, we measured the rate of the synaptic release of AFD in worms cultivated at temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees C, and subjected to fixed, ambient temperatures in the same range. We found that the rate of AFD synaptic release is high if either T(amb) > T(cult) or T(amb) < T(cult), but AFD synaptic release is low if T(amb) congruent with T(cult). This suggests that AFD encodes a direct comparison between T(amb) and T(cult).
The chemical synapse is a specialized intercellular junction that operates nearly autonomously to allow rapid, specific, and local communication between neurons. Focusing our attention on the presynaptic terminal, we review the current understanding of how synaptic morphology is maintained and then the mechanisms in synaptic vesicle exocytosis and recycling.
Little is known about the influence of substrate-bound gradients on neuronal development, since it has been difficult to fabricate gradients over the distances typically required for biological studies (a few hundred micrometers). This article demonstrates a generally applicable technique for the fabrication of substrate-bound gradients of proteins with complex shapes, using laminar flows in microchannels. Gradients that range from pure laminin to pure BSA were formed in solution by using a network of microchannels, and these proteins were allowed to adsorb onto a homogeneous layer of poly-l-lysine. Rat hippocampal neurons were cultivated on these substrate-bound gradients. Analysis of optical images of these neurons showed that axon specification is oriented in the direction of increasing surface density of laminin. Linear gradients in laminin adsorbed from a gradient in solution having a slope of nabla [laminin] > about 0.06 microg (ml.microm)(-1) (defined by dividing the change of concentration of laminin in solution over the distance of the gradient) orient axon specification, whereas those with nabla [laminin] < about 0.06 microg (ml.microm)(-1) have no effect.
The rules by which neuronal activity causes long-term modification of synapses in the central nervous system are not fully understood. Whereas competitive or correlation-based rules result in local modification of synapses, homeostatic modifications allow neuron-wide changes in synaptic strength, promoting stability. Experimental investigations of these rules at central nervous system synapses have relied generally on manipulating activity in populations of neurons. Here, we investigated the effect of suppressing excitability in single neurons within a network of active hippocampal neurons by overexpressing an inward-rectifier potassium channel. Reducing activity in a neuron before synapse formation leads to a reduction in functional synaptic inputs to that neuron; no such reduction was observed when activity of all neurons was uniformly suppressed. In contrast, suppressing activity in a single neuron after synapses are established results in a homeostatic increase in synaptic input, which restores the activity of the neuron to control levels. Our results highlight the differences between global and selective suppression of activity, as well as those between early and late manipulation of activity.
Dendritic spines are motile structures that contain high concentrations of filamentous actin. Using hippocampal neurons expressing fluorescent actin and the method of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we found that 85 +/- 2% of actin in the spine was dynamic, with a turnover time of 44.2 +/- 4.0 s. The rapid turnover is not compatible with current models invoking a large population of stable filaments and static coupling of filaments to postsynaptic components. Low-frequency stimulation known to induce long-term depression in these neurons stabilized nearly half the dynamic actin in the spine. This effect depended on the activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and the influx of calcium. In neurons from mice lacking gelsolin, a calcium-dependent actin-binding protein, activity-dependent stabilization of actin was impaired. Our studies provide new information on the kinetics of actin turnover in spines, its regulation by neural activity and the mechanisms involved in this regulation.
When hippocampal synapses in culture are pharmacologically silenced for several days, synaptic strength increases. The structural correlate of this change in strength is an increase in the size of the synapses, with all synaptic components--active zone, postsynaptic density, and bouton--becoming larger. Further, the number of docked vesicles and the total number of vesicles per synapse increases, although the number of docked vesicles per area of active zone is unchanged. In parallel with these anatomical changes, the physiologically measured size of the readily releasable pool (RRP) and the release probability are increased. Ultrastructural analysis of individual synapses in which the RRP was previously measured reveals that, within measurement error, the same number of vesicles are docked as are estimated to be in the RRP.
We have investigated mechanisms in postendocytic processing of synaptic vesicles at hippocampal synapses, using synaptobrevin/vesicle-associated membrane protein (VAMP) tagged with variants of the green fluorescent protein. Following exocytosis, VAMP is retrieved at synaptic and adjoining axonal regions. Retrieved VAMP-containing vesicles return to synaptic vesicle clusters at a rate slower than endocytosis. Vesicles containing a different protein, synaptophysin, recluster at a similar rate, suggesting common vesicular intermediates for the two proteins. Activity prolongs the time taken by endocytosed vesicles to return to synapses. Exogenous calcium buffers slow endocytosis but have no additional effect on the time course of reclustering. In contrast, the protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine does not affect endocytosis but slows reclustering. Finally, since VAMP can move freely on surface membranes, sustained synaptic activity leads to mixing of this vesicular component between adjacent synapses.
Recent experiments indicate that modification of synaptic strength may involve rapid regulation of vesicular traffic on the postsynaptic side of the synapse. The specific vesicular trafficking route taken by postsynaptic receptors appears to depend on the stimulus.
BACKGROUND: Of the animals typically used to study fertilization-induced calcium dynamics, none is as accessible to genetics and molecular biology as the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. Motivated by the experimental possibilities inherent in using such a well-established model organism, we have characterized fertilization-induced calcium dynamics in C. elegans. RESULTS: Owing to the transparency of the nematode, we have been able to study the calcium signal in C. elegans fertilization in vivo by monitoring the fluorescence of calcium indicator dyes that we introduce into the cytosol of oocytes. In C. elegans, fertilization induces a single calcium transient that is initiated soon after oocyte entry into the spermatheca, the compartment that contains sperm. Therefore, it is likely that the calcium transient is initiated by contact with sperm. This calcium elevation spreads throughout the oocyte, and decays monotonically after which the cytosolic calcium concentration returns to that preceding fertilization. Only this single calcium transient is observed. CONCLUSION: Development of a technique to study fertilization induced calcium transients opens several experimental possibilities, e.g., identification of the signaling events intervening sperm binding and calcium elevation, identifying the possible roles of the calcium elevation such as the completion of meiosis, the formation of the eggshell, and the establishing of the embryo's axis of symmetry.
The appearance of oscillatory modes of 'gamma' activity in many cortical areas of different species has generated interest in understanding their underlying mechanisms and possible functions. This paper reviews evidence from studies on primate motor cortex showing that oscillatory activity entrains many neurons during periods of exploratory manipulative behavior. These oscillatory episodes synchronize widely spread neurons in sensorimotor cortex bilaterally, including descending corticospinal neurons, as evidenced by correlated modulations in EMG activity. The resulting neural synchronization involves task-related and -unrelated neurons similarly, suggesting that it is more likely to play some global role in attention than mediating any obvious interactions involved in coordinating movements. Intracellular recordings have elucidated the strength and types of synaptic interactions between motor cortical neurons that are involved in both normal and oscillatory activity. Spike-triggered averages (STAs) of intracellular membrane potentials have revealed serial connections in the form of unitary excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic potentials (EPSPs and IPSPs). More commonly, STAs showed large synchronous excitatory or inhibitory potentials (ASEPs and ASIPs) beginning before the trigger spike and composed of multiple unitary events. ASEPs involved synchronous activity in a larger and more widespread group of presynaptic neurons than ASIPs. During oscillatory episodes synchronized excitatory and inhibitory synaptic potentials occurred in varying proportions. EPSPs evoked by stimulating neighboring cortical sites during the depolarizing phase of spontaneous oscillations showed evidence of transient potentiation. These observations are consistent with several functional hypotheses, but fit best with a possible role in attention or arousal.
Synaptic N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors detect coincident pre- and postsynaptic activity and play a critical role in triggering changes in synaptic strength at central synapses. Despite intensive study of synaptic plasticity, relatively little is known about the magnitude and duration of calcium accumulation caused by unitary events at individual synapses. We used fluorescence imaging to detect NMDA receptor-mediated miniature synaptic calcium transients (MSCTs) caused by spontaneous release of synaptic vesicles in dendrites of cultured hippocampal neurons. MSCTs originated focally in dendritic regions <1 microm in length and decayed with a time constant of 0.35 +/- 0.03 s. Multiple occurrences of MSCTs recorded at single sites had fluctuating amplitudes, with a coefficient of variation of 0.34. From the reduction in the spatial spread of MSCTs with decreasing concentration of indicator dye, we estimated that the dominant endogenous calcium buffer in dendrites is relatively immobile (diffusion coefficient between 10 and 50 microm(2)/s). We conclude that calcium rise caused by spontaneous quantal synaptic NMDA receptor activation (i) is variable, (ii) lasts for a time period briefer than previous measurements indicate, and (iii) is confined by endogenous calcium buffers to local dendritic regions even when synapses are not on spines.
Recent advances in optical methods have catalyzed a detailed study of individual visualized synapses in several model systems. Quantal events at small central synapses, as well as single granule exocytosis in secretory cells, have been detected using quantitative fluorescence imaging. Sensitive detection of exocytosis and endocytosis at individual synapses has advanced our knowledge of synaptic vesicle trafficking.