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Novartis Found Symp. 2001;239:160-72; discussion 172-6, 234-40.

Regulation of gene expression by action potentials: dependence on complexity in cellular information processing.

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National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


Nervous system development and plasticity are regulated by neural impulse activity, but it is not well understood how the pattern of action potential firing could regulate the expression of genes responsible for long-term adaptive responses in the nervous system. Studies on mouse sensory neurons in cell cultures equipped with stimulating electrodes show that specific genes can be regulated by different patterns of action potentials, and that the temporal dynamics of intracellular signalling cascades are critical in decoding and integrating information contained in the pattern of neural impulse activity. Functional consequences include effects on neurite outgrowth, cell adhesion, synaptic plasticity and axon-glial interactions. Signalling pathways involving Ca2+, CaM KII, MAPK and CREB are particularly important in coupling action potential firing to the transcriptional regulation of both neurons and glia, and in the conversion of short-term to long-term memory. Action potentials activate multiple convergent and divergent pathways, and the complex network properties of intracellular signalling and transcriptional regulatory mechanisms contribute to spike frequency decoding.

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