1. The role of presynaptic Ca2+ entry in facilitation of transmitter release has been analysed by voltage-clamp measurements at synapses formed in culture by Retzius and P neurones isolated from the central nervous system (CNS) of the leech. The transmitter released by Retzius cells is serotonin. 2. Synaptic transmission persisted in solutions containing raised concentrations of divalent cations, reduced concentrations of Na+, and tetraethylammonium (TEA+) and 4-AP (to block K+ currents). Ca2+ and Sr2+ were more effective in promoting transmitter release than Ba2+, as assessed by the postsynaptic potentials in P cells. The degree and time course of facilitation in Ca2+- and Sr2+-containing solutions were similar to those observed for synapses bathed in normal L-15 medium. 3. Transmitter release depended upon the amplitude and the duration of presynaptic depolarization and inward Ca2+ current. Peak Ca2+ currents and postsynaptic potentials occurred with depolarizing steps to +15 mV. Frequent or prolonged pulses depressed the postsynaptic potentials. 4. Pairs of depolarizing pulses that caused facilitation were accompanied by identical inward Ca2+ currents. These results indicate that the mechanism responsible for facilitated serotonin release must occur following Ca2+ entry and that residual Ca2+ plays a role.
1. Na+, K+ and Ca2+ currents have been measured by voltage-clamp in Retzius (R), anterior pagoda (AP) and sensory (pressure, touch and nociceptive) cells dissected from the central nervous system (CNS) of the leech. These cells maintain their distinctive membrane properties and action potential configurations in culture. Currents carried by the individual ions were analysed by the use of channel blockers and by their kinetics. Since the cells are isopotential they can be voltage-clamped effectively. 2. Depolarization, as expected, gave rise to an early inward Na+ current followed by a delayed outward K+ current. In Na+-free medium containing tetraethylammonium (TEA+), and in the presence of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), inward Ca2+ currents were revealed that inactivated slowly and were blocked by Cd2+ and Mn2+. 3. Na+ and Ca2+ currents were similar in their characteristics in R. AP and sensory neurones. In contrast, K+ currents showed marked differences. Three principal K+ currents were identified. These differed in their time courses of activation and inactivation and in their responses to Ca2+ channel blockers. 4. K+ currents of the A-type (IA) activated and inactivated rapidly, were not affected by Ca2+ channel blockers and were eliminated by steady-state inactivation at holding potentials of −30 mV. A-type K+ currents were found in AP cells and as a minor component of the outward current in R cells. A Ca2+-activated K+ current (IC), that inactivated more slowly and was reduced by Ca2+ channel blockers, constituted the major outward current in R cells. The third K+ current resembled the delayed rectifier currents (IK1 and IK2) of squid axons with slow activation and inactivation kinetics. Such currents were found in R cells and in the sensory neurones (T, P and N). 5. The principal differences in membrane properties of identified leech neurones can be explained in terms of the numbers of Na+ channels and the distinctive kinetics of K+ channels in each type of cell.
1. The central ganglia of a number of gastropod molluscs (including the marine snail Aplysia californica and the terrestrial snail Helix pomatia) contain neurones which exhibit endogenous patterns of oscillatory activity. 2. This oscillatory activity can be modulated for long periods of time by synaptic and hormonal stimulation. 3. Stimulation of appropriate pre-synaptic nerves causes long-lasting hyperpolarization in these neurones, with complete abolition of oscillatory activity. This synaptic response is mediated by an increase in K+ conductance, together with a decrease in inward (Na+/Ca2+) conductance. The ionic conductances affected by synaptic stimulation are those responsible for producing the rhythmic oscillations. 4. The oscillatory activity can also be modulated by the vertebrate neurohyophyseal peptides, vasopressin and oxytocin, and by an endogenous peptide-containing extract of molluscan ganglia. In contrast to synaptic stimulation, these agents cause an increase in oscillatory activity. 5. The endogenous molluscan factor which produces an increase in oscillatory activity can be purified by affinity chromatography on bovine neurophysin linked to Sepharose. This indicates that the molluscan nervous system may contain a neurohypophyseal-like peptide. 6. Oscillatory activity can be modulated by manipulation of cyclic nucleotide metabolism in these neurones. Increases in cAMP alone are associated with abolition of oscillatory activity; this mimics long-lasting synaptic hyperpolarization. Increases in cAMP and cGMP together are associated with an increase in oscillatory activity and mimic the effects of the vertebrate and molluscan peptides. Thus, it is possible that cyclic nucleotides play a role in these physiological responses.