Nitric oxide release and long term potentiation at synapses in autonomic ganglia

Gen Pharmacol. 1994 Dec;25(8):1541-51. doi: 10.1016/0306-3623(94)90353-0.


1. Long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission in autonomic ganglia is reviewed, together with the possible role of nitric oxide (NO) in this process. 2. Calcium levels in preganglionic nerve terminals are elevated during at least the induction phase of LTP following a tetanus as well as during LTP induced by transmitter substances acting on the nerve terminals. Of the large number of calcium-dependent processes in the nerve terminal that might affect transmitter release, only calcium-calmodulin has been shown to be important in both the induction and maintenance of LTP. 3. The possibility that there is a decrease in the open time of nerve-terminal potassium channels following a tetanus, leading to an increase in duration of the terminal action potential and hence an increase in calcium influx and transmitter release is considered. There is little evidence for such an effect as yet for preganglionic nerve terminals. 4. Phosphorylation of potassium channels by cAMP-dependent protein kinase can lead to their inactivation with consequent action potential broadening in some systems. Exogenous cAMP enhances synaptic efficacy at preganglionic nerve terminals. Whether this occurs through an inactivation of potassium channels is not known. 5. Nitric oxide (NO) synthase is present in both sympathetic ganglia and the ciliary ganglia. NO increases synaptic efficacy in both ganglia. In at least the case of ciliary ganglion this is due to elevation of quantal secretion. 6. NO can in some conditions increase the terminal action potential duration in ciliary ganglia, probably through decrease in the Ic potassium current. There is evidence that this happens through cGMP modulating cAMP phosphodiesterases, thereby affecting cAMP phosphorylation of the Ic channel. 7. Blocking NO synthase markedly decreases LTP following a tetanus in the ciliary ganglion. The possibility is considered that NO is released from the terminal during a tetanus and through altering cAMP phosphorylation of Ic enhances transmitter release.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology
  • Ganglia, Autonomic / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Potassium Channels
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Calcium