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nAChR-mediated calcium responses and plasticity in Drosophila Kenyon cells.

  • Author(s): Campusano, Jorge M
  • Su, Hailing
  • Jiang, Shaojuan A
  • Sicaeros, Beatriz
  • O'Dowd, Diane K
  • et al.

In Drosophila, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) mediate fast excitatory synaptic transmission in mushroom body Kenyon cells, a neuronal population involved in generation of complex behaviors, including responses to drugs of abuse. To determine whether activation of nAChRs can induce cellular changes that contribute to functional plasticity in these neurons, we examined nicotine-evoked responses in cells cultured from brains of late stage OK107-GAL4 pupae. Kenyon cells can be identified by expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP+). Nicotine activates alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive nAChRs, causing a rapid increase in intracellular calcium levels in over 95% of the Kenyon cells. The nicotine-evoked calcium increase has a voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) dependent component and a VGCC-independent component that involves calcium influx directly through nAChRs. Thapsigargin treatment reduces the nicotine response consistent with amplification by calcium release from intracellular stores. The response to nicotine is experience-dependent: a short conditioning pulse of nicotine causes a transient 50% reduction in the magnitude of the response to a test pulse of nicotine when the interpulse interval is 4 h. This cellular plasticity is dependent on activation of the VGCC-component of the nicotine response and on cAMP-signaling, but not on protein synthesis. These data demonstrate that activation of nAChRs induces a calcium-dependent plasticity in Kenyon cells that could contribute to adult behaviors involving information processing in the mushroom bodies including responses to nicotine.

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