Long-term potentiation at nicotinic synapses in the rat superior cervical ganglion

J Physiol. 1988 Oct;404:129-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1988.sp017282.


1. Nicotinic fast excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fast EPSPs) were recorded intracellularly from postganglionic neurones in the isolated rat superior cervical ganglion. 2. An hours-long potentiation of the fast EPSP could be induced by brief tetanic stimulation of the preganglionic nerve (5 Hz for 5 s to 20 Hz for 20 s). While long-term potentiation (LTP) can be detected in every ganglion by extracellular techniques, LTP was induced in only two-thirds of the nicotinic synaptic responses. 3. Muscarinic blockade with atropine did not prevent LTP of the fast EPSP. 4. LTP of the fast EPSP did not correlate with changes in input resistance nor cell potential, as recorded in the soma. 5. The formation of nicotinic LTP appeared to depend upon stimulation of the nerve terminals. Non-synaptic tetanic depolarization of the postganglionic neurone, effected by injecting depolarizing current pulses through the intracellular microelectrode, was not sufficient. LTP could be induced by synaptic tetani in two-thirds of the same neurones. 6. The response to exogenous 1,1-dimethyl-4-phenylpiperazinium (DMPP), a selective nicotinic agonist, was not increased during nicotinic synaptic LTP. This was true whether DMPP was applied by pressure-ejection from an extracellular micropipette during intracellular recording, or by brief superfusion during sucrose-gap recording of postganglionic responses. 7. Responses to exogenous acetylcholine and carbachol were increased during nicotinic LTP when these non-selective cholinergic agonists were applied by pressure-ejection during intracellular recording. However, the potentiation of the fast EPSP was always at least twofold greater than the potentiation of the response to these exogenous agonists. 8. Potentiation of the responses to acetylcholine and carbachol may have been due to long-term enhancement of muscarinic responses. Thus, no postsynaptic basis for nicotinic LTP was uncovered in these studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Nerve Endings / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Atropine
  • Carbachol
  • Acetylcholine