Transmitter Receptor Interactions A Mechanism for Synapse Specificity

When co-cultured with their synaptic partners, most molluscan neurons recapitulate their patterns of synaptic connections1. Intracellular recordings, concomitant with time lapse imaging of growth cones, revealed that synapses form within an hour of contact between pre- and postsynaptic neurons14. The process of specific target cell selection and subsequent synapse formation was shown to be facilitated by transmitter-receptor interactions between the approaching growth cones. Perturbation of either presynaptic transmitter release (dopamine) or postsynaptic neurotransmitter receptors, affected target cell selection but did not completely block synapse formation. It is important to note that transmitter release from the growth cone of an identified presynaptic Lymnaea neuron (Right Pedal Doral 1 = RPeDl) not only attracted growth cones from synaptic partners, but it also repelled nonpartner growth cones, thus avoiding synapse formation with inappropriate (synapses that do not exist in vivo) targets14. More recently, blocking cholinergic receptors during soma-axon pairing in Lymnaea was also shown to perturb synapse formation in cell culture15. It therefore seems safe to suggest that transmitter-receptor interactions between regenerating molluscan neurons play important roles in target cell selection and synapse formation, which in turn may define the early patterns of synaptic connectivity.

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