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Neuron. 1994 Dec;13(6):1373-84.

Concomitant alterations of physiological and developmental plasticity in Drosophila CaM kinase II-inhibited synapses.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242.


Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaM kinase) has been implicated in neural plasticity that underlies learning and memory processes. Transformed strains of Drosophila, ala1 and ala2, expressing a specific inhibitor of CaM kinase are known to be impaired in an associative conditioning behavioral paradigm. We found that these transformants had altered short-term plasticity in synaptic transmission along with abnormal nerve terminal sprouting and directionality of outgrowth. These results represent an interesting parallel with the activity-dependent regulation of synaptic physiology and morphology by the cAMP cascade in Aplysia and Drosophila. In contrast to the learning mutants dunce and rutabaga, which are defective in the cAMP cascade, inhibition of CaM kinase in ala transformants caused increased sprouting at larval neuromuscular junctions near the nerve entry point, rather than altering the higher order branch segments. In addition, synaptic facilitation and potentiation were altered in a manner different from that observed in the cAMP mutants. Furthermore, synaptic currents in ala transformants were characterized by greater variability, suggesting an important role of CaM kinase in the stability of transmission.

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