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Proc Biol Sci. 1994 Sep 22;257(1350):263-9.

Novel synapses compensate for a neuron ablated in embryos.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida 33136.


In leeches, as well as mammals, neuronal death in adults produces lasting deficits, whereas the embryonic nervous system is believed to be more plastic. Killing the single S interneuron in an adult leech ganglion permanently interrupts the chain of S cells linked by electrical synapses along the entire animal. Axons that synapsed with the ablated neuron do not change length in response to cell ablation, but they will grow if another axon of the same neuron is injured. In the present experiments, the S cell and surrounding cells in one ganglion were ablated with a fine pin during embryogenesis (day 8-11). Effects were evaluated 1-4 months later. Cell-specific monoclonal antibody confirmed S cell deletions. Intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase and 6-carboxyfluorescein dye showed that intact S cells' axons projected twice their usual length into the lesioned ganglion and formed electrical synapses with homologues of their usual synaptic targets. Conduction was often restored by these connections, which replaced those of the deleted S cell. Therefore, in both adults and embryos, growing S interneurons respond to loss of a target by greater growth. However, only on the small scale of the embryo is growth sufficient to reach suitable targets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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