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Modification and regeneration of synaptic connections in cultured leech ganglia.

  • Miyazaki, S
  • Nicholls, J G
  • Wallace, B G
Published Article
Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1976
PMID: 181202


Segmental ganglia of the central nervous system of the leech were maintained in culture medium outside the animal for several weeks in order to study the properties of synapses and regeneration by identified sensory and motor nerve cells. A variety of preparations were used, including single ganglia, chains of ganglia and ganglia connected to the areas of skin and muscle that they normally innervate in the animal. (1) For up to 10 weeks after removal from the animal, resting and action potentials recorded from sensory and motor neurons resembled those seen in normal ganglia. The same individual cell in a cultured ganglion could be recorded from with intracellular electrodes on a second occasion after an interval of a few days. (2) Sensory cells, identified as touch, pressure or nociceptive according to their morphology and electrical properties, continued to respond selectively to stimuli of the appropriate modality applied to their receptive fields in the skin; action potentials in motor cells caused contractions in the appropriate muscles. Culture of ganglia for more than 3 weeks caused the disappearance of synaptic potentials and a loss of transparency in ganglia. (3) Certain chemically mediated synaptic interactions between sensory and motor nerve cells became markedly changed in cultured ganglia. These changes appeared over the first 3 weeks and consisted of abnormally large excitatory and inhibitory synaptic potentials. The changes in synaptic transmission observed in culture were in many respects similar to those occurring in ganglia maintained within an animal after lesions have been made in the nervous system (Jansen et al. 1974). (4) The morphological appearances of sensory cells were compared in cultured and normal ganglia after injection of horseradish peroxidase. In cultured ganglia, the branching pattern appeared normal, but varicosities became more conspicuous. (5) When connectives linking cultured ganglia were crushed or cut, regeneration occurred. By 7 days, impulses propagated through the regenerated fibers and evoked synaptic potentials on cells within the next ganglion. The course taken by regenerating axons was observed in cells injected with horseradish peroxidase. The results again resembled those seen in animals with similar lesions. (6) The cultured ganglia provide preparations in which it is possible to analyze the mechanisms that underlie long-term changes similar to those seen in the leech central nervous system in situ.

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