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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1991;627:169-79.

Activity-dependent recruitment of silent synapses.

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Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


At the crayfish neuromuscular junction, a long-lasting enhancement of synaptic transmission can be induced by tetanic stimulation of 10-20 Hz for several minutes. The long-lasting enhancement is presynaptic in origin, because quantal content increases but not quantal size, and is not dependent upon broadening or enlargement of the presynaptic action potential. The enhancement can be selectively blocked by presynaptic injection of agents that inhibit adenylate cyclase or the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. Entry of calcium may not be sufficient in itself to produce the enhancement. Analyses of quantal events using both a simple binomial statistical method, and a more refined method that takes into account the possibility of unequal probabilities of responding units, have shown that the number of responding units increases during the long-lasting enhancement. In addition, there is an increase in the probability of transmitter release at preexisting units. In contrast, during short-term facilitation accompanying repetitive stimulation, response probability increases greatly whereas the number of responding units increases only moderately with frequencies of activation up to 20 Hz, which increase quantal output severalfold. These results indicate that responding units, hypothesized to be transmitting synapses, can be recruited to active transmission from an unresponsive pool by tetanic activity, and that protein phosphorylation is required for long-lasting changes to occur. The existence of an excess of synapses on crustacean nerve terminals is indicated by ultrastructural studies, which invariably show many synapses on the terminals. The number of morphologically defined synapses is always greater than the number of responding units seen in statistical analyses of quantal release for the same recording location.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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