The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

GABAergic synaptic plasticity during a developmentally regulated sleep-like state in C. elegans.

PMID 22049436


Approximately one-fourth of the neurons in Caenorhabditis elegans adults are born during larval development, indicating tremendous plasticity in larval nervous system structure. Larval development shows cyclical expression of sleep-like quiescent behavior during lethargus periods, which occur at larval stage transitions. We studied plasticity at the neuromuscular junction during lethargus using the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor aldicarb. The rate of animal contraction when exposed to aldicarb is controlled by the balance between excitatory cholinergic and inhibitory GABAergic input on the muscle. During lethargus, there is an accelerated rate of contraction on aldicarb. Mutant analysis and optogenetic studies reveal that GABAergic synaptic transmission is reduced during lethargus. Worms in lethargus show partial resistance to GABA(A) receptor agonists, indicating that postsynaptic mechanisms contribute to lethargus-dependent plasticity. Using genetic manipulations that separate the quiescent state from the developmental stage, we show that the synaptic plasticity is dependent on developmental time and not on the behavioral state of the animal. We propose that the synaptic plasticity regulated by a developmental clock in C. elegans is analogous to synaptic plasticity regulated by the circadian clock in other species.

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Aldicarb, PESTANAL®, analytical standard