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J Comput Neurosci. 2012 Dec;33(3):573-85. doi: 10.1007/s10827-012-0402-z. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

Neuromodulatory changes in short-term synaptic dynamics may be mediated by two distinct mechanisms of presynaptic calcium entry.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.


Although synaptic output is known to be modulated by changes in presynaptic calcium channels, additional pathways for calcium entry into the presynaptic terminal, such as non-selective channels, could contribute to modulation of short term synaptic dynamics. We address this issue using computational modeling. The neuropeptide proctolin modulates the inhibitory synapse from the lateral pyloric (LP) to the pyloric dilator (PD) neuron, two slow-wave bursting neurons in the pyloric network of the crab Cancer borealis. Proctolin enhances the strength of this synapse and also changes its dynamics. Whereas in control saline the synapse shows depression independent of the amplitude of the presynaptic LP signal, in proctolin, with high-amplitude presynaptic LP stimulation the synapse remains depressing while low-amplitude stimulation causes facilitation. We use simple calcium-dependent release models to explore two alternative mechanisms underlying these modulatory effects. In the first model, proctolin directly targets calcium channels by changing their activation kinetics which results in gradual accumulation of calcium with low-amplitude presynaptic stimulation, leading to facilitation. The second model uses the fact that proctolin is known to activate a non-specific cation current I ( MI ). In this model, we assume that the MI channels have some permeability to calcium, modeled to be a result of slow conformation change after binding calcium. This generates a gradual increase in calcium influx into the presynaptic terminals through the modulatory channel similar to that described in the first model. Each of these models can explain the modulation of the synapse by proctolin but with different consequences for network activity.

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