Synapse-specific, long-term facilitation of aplysia sensory to motor synapses: a function for local protein synthesis in memory storage

Cell. 1997 Dec 26;91(7):927-38. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(00)80484-5.


The requirement for transcription during long-lasting synaptic plasticity has raised the question of whether the cellular unit of synaptic plasticity is the soma and its nucleus or the synapse. To address this question, we cultured a single bifurcated Aplysia sensory neuron making synapses with two spatially separated motor neurons. By perfusing serotonin onto the synapses made onto one motor neuron, we found that a single axonal branch can undergo long-term branch-specific facilitation. This branch-specific facilitation depends on CREB-mediated transcription and involves the growth of new synaptic connections exclusively at the treated branch. Branch-specific long-term facilitation requires local protein synthesis in the presynaptic but not the postsynaptic cell. In fact, presynaptic sensory neuron axons deprived of their cell bodies are capable of protein synthesis, and this protein synthesis is stimulated 3-fold by exposure to serotonin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Serotonin / pharmacology
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Serotonin