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cAMP-dependent plasticity at excitatory cholinergic synapses in Drosophila neurons: alterations in the memory mutant dunce.

  • Author(s): Lee, Daewoo
  • O'Dowd, Diane K
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

It is well known that cAMP signaling plays a role in regulating functional plasticity at central glutamatergic synapses. However, in the Drosophila CNS, where acetylcholine is thought to be a primary excitatory neurotransmitter, cellular changes in neuronal communication mediated by cAMP remain unexplored. In this study we examined the effects of elevated cAMP levels on fast excitatory cholinergic synaptic transmission in cultured embryonic Drosophila neurons. We report that chronic elevation in neuronal cAMP (in dunce neurons or wild-type neurons grown in db-cAMP) results in an increase in the frequency of cholinergic miniature EPSCs (mEPSCs). The absence of alterations in mEPSC amplitude or kinetics suggests that the locus of action is presynaptic. Furthermore, a brief exposure to db-cAMP induces two distinct changes in transmission at established cholinergic synapses in wild-type neurons: a short-term increase in the frequency of spontaneous action potential-dependent synaptic currents and a long-lasting, protein synthesis-dependent increase in the mEPSC frequency. A more persistent increase in cholinergic mEPSC frequency induced by repetitive, spaced db-cAMP exposure in wild-type neurons is absent in neurons from the memory mutant dunce. These data demonstrate that interneuronal excitatory cholinergic synapses in Drosophila, like central excitatory glutamatergic synapses in other species, are sites of cAMP-dependent plasticity. In addition, the alterations in dunce neurons suggest that cAMP-dependent plasticity at cholinergic synapses could mediate changes in neuronal communication that contribute to memory formation.

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