Interspecies Synaptogenesis between Molluscan Neurons

The molluscan preparations were the first in which it was demonstrated that the mechanisms underlying specific synapse formation are conserved across different snail species. Specifically, the giant dopaminergic neurons located in the right and left pedal ganglia of the snails Lymnaea and Helisoma, respectively, are considered homologs and innervate a variety of target cells in their respective species. To test whether the giant dopamine cells were indeed homologs, the Lymnaea dopamine cell (RPeDl) was paired with the postsynaptic targets of the Helisoma dopamine cell. The cells were allowed to exhibit outgrowth, which resulted in the formation of synapses between Lymnaea and Helisoma neurons19,20 (Figure 2.1F). This study involving "neuronal hybrids" not only provided unequivocal evidence regarding the homologous nature of these cells but also demonstrated that the mechanisms of target cell selection and specific synapse formation are most likely conserved across the two related molluscan species. Therefore, it could be suggested that specific presynaptic neurons serving similar functions in a variety of molluscan species, may follow a common synaptogenic program to an extent that neuronal mixing and matching does not interfere with the mechanisms regulating synapse specificity in two different snails.

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