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J Integr Neurosci. 2013 Mar;12(1):17-34. doi: 10.1142/S0219635213500039. Epub 2013 Apr 8.

Visual input controls the functional activity of goldfish Mauthner neuron through the reciprocal synaptic mechanism.

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Laboratory of Neuron Ultrastructure, Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia.


Goldfish are known to exhibit motor asymmetry due to functional asymmetry of their Mauthner neurons that induce the turns to the right or left during free swimming. It has been previously found that if the less active neuron is subjected to prolonged aimed visual stimulation via its ventral dendrite, the motor asymmetry of goldfish is inverted, testifying that this neuron becomes functionally dominant, while the size of the ventral dendrite under these conditions is reduced 2-3 times compared to its counterpart in mirror neuron. Earlier it has been also revealed that training optokinetic stimulation induces adaptation, a substantial resistance of both fish motor asymmetry and morphofunctional state of Mauthner neurons against prolonged optokinetic stimulation. The aim of this work was to study the cellular mechanisms of the effect of an unusual visual afferent input on goldfish motor asymmetry and Mauthner neuron function in norm and under adaptation. It was shown that serotonin applied onto Mauthner neurons greatly reduces their activity whereas its antagonist ondansetron increases it. Against the background of visual stimulation, serotonin strengthens functional asymmetry between neurons whereas ondansetron smoothes it. Taken together these data suggest the involvement of serotonergic excitatory synaptic transmission in the regulation of Mauthner neurons by vision. Ultrastructural study of the ventral dendrites after prolonged optokinetic stimulation has revealed depletions of numeral axo-axonal synapses with specific morphology, identified by means of immunogold label as serotonergic ones. These latter in turn are situated mainly on shaft boutons, which according to specific ultrastructural features are assigned to axo-dendritic inhibitory synapses. Thus, the excitatory serotonergic synapses seem to affect Mauthner neuron indirectly through inhibitory synapses. Further, it was morphometrically established that adaptation is accompanied by the significant decrease of active zones dimensions in both serotonergic and inhibitory synapses. Finally, it was determined in model experiments that the interaction of globular actin with glycine, a main inhibitory neurotransmitter supposedly directly and chronically affecting the ventral dendrite, results in actin filaments formation. It is assumed that glycine-induced cytosolic actin polymerization is a cause of reduction in the ventral dendrite size under stimulation. Thus, it was established that a rather small group of synapses situated on an individual dendrite of the neuron determines the execution of the important form of animal behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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