Neuromodulation independently determines correlated channel expression and conductance levels in motor neurons of the stomatogastric ganglion

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;107(2):718-27. doi: 10.1152/jn.00622.2011. Epub 2011 Oct 12.


Neuronal identity depends on the regulated expression of numerous molecular components, especially ionic channels, which determine the electrical signature of a neuron. Such regulation depends on at least two key factors, activity itself and neuromodulatory input. Neuronal electrical activity can modify the expression of ionic currents in homeostatic or nonhomeostatic fashion. Neuromodulators typically modify activity by regulating the properties or expression levels of subsets of ionic channels. In the stomatogastric system of crustaceans, both types of regulation have been demonstrated. Furthermore, the regulation of the coordinated expression of ionic currents and the channels that carry these currents has been recently reported in diverse neuronal systems, with neuromodulators not only controlling the absolute levels of ionic current expression but also, over long periods of time, appearing to modify their correlated expression. We hypothesize that neuromodulators may regulate the correlated expression of ion channels at multiple levels and in a cell-type-dependent fashion. We report that in two identified neuronal types, three ionic currents are linearly correlated in a pairwise manner, suggesting their coexpression or direct interactions, under normal neuromodulatory conditions. In each cell, some currents remain correlated after neuromodulatory input is removed, whereas the correlations between the other pairs are either lost or altered. Interestingly, in each cell, a different suite of currents change their correlation. At the transcript level we observe distinct alterations in correlations between channel mRNA amounts, including one of the cell types lacking a correlation under normal neuromodulatory conditions and then gaining the correlation when neuromodulators are removed. Synaptic activity does not appear to contribute, with one possible exception, to the correlated expression of either ionic currents or of the transcripts that code for the respective channels. We conclude that neuromodulators regulate the correlated expression of ion channels at both the transcript and the protein levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena / drug effects
  • Biophysical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Brachyura
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology*
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Pylorus / cytology
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Ion Channels
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Picrotoxin