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Neurally evoked calcium transients in terminal Schwann cells at the neuromuscular junction.

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  • Research Article


We examined the effects of motor-nerve stimulation on the intracellular Ca2+ levels of Schwann cells, the glial cells at the frog neuromuscular junction. Schwann cells, which were loaded with the fluorescent Ca2+ indicator fluo-3 and examined by confocal microscopy, showed a transient increase in free Ca2+ within a few seconds of the onset of tetanic stimulation of the motor nerve. The Ca2+ response was specific to the synapse in that it was found in the terminal Schwann cells at the junction but not in the myelinating Schwann cells along the axon. The Ca2+ transients occurred in the presence of d-tubocurare, indicating that they were not mediated by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and recurred when the stimulus was repeated. The Ca2+ response persisted after degeneration of the postsynaptic muscle fiber, demonstrating that the terminal Schwann cell was stimulated directly by presynaptic activity. The finding that terminal Schwann cells at the neuromuscular junction respond to presynaptic activity suggests that glial-cell function is modulated by synaptic transmission.

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