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Brain Res. 2007 Jan 19;1129(1):63-71. Epub 2006 Dec 6.

Transient electrical coupling regulates formation of neuronal networks.

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Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


Electrical synapses are abundant before and during developmental windows of intense chemical synapse formation, and might therefore contribute to the establishment of neuronal networks. Transient electrical coupling develops and is then eliminated between regenerating Helisoma motoneurons 110 and 19 during a period of 48-72 h in vivo and in vitro following nerve injury. An inverse relationship exists between electrical coupling and chemical synaptic transmission at these synapses, such that the decline in electrical coupling is coincident with the emergence of cholinergic synaptic transmission. In this study, we have generated two- and three-cell neuronal networks to test whether predicted synaptogenic capabilities were affected by previous synaptic interactions. Electrophysiological analyses demonstrated that synapses formed in three-cell neuronal networks were not those predicted based on synaptogenic outcomes in two-cell networks. Thus, new electrical and chemical synapse formation within a neuronal network is dependent on existing connectivity of that network. In addition, new contacts formed with established networks have little impact on these existing connections. These results suggest that network-dependent mechanisms, particularly those mediated by gap junctional coupling, regulate synapse formation within simple neural networks.

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