Forskolin induces NMDA receptor-dependent potentiation at a central synapse in the leech

Kathryn B. Grey, Brian D. Burrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In vertebrate hippocampal neurons, application of forskolin (an adenylyl cyclase activator) and rolipram (a phosphodiesterase inhibitor) is an effective technique for inducing chemical long-term potentiation (cLTP) that is N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor (NMDAR)-dependent. However, it is not known whether forskolin induces a similar potentiation in invertebrate synapses. Therefore, we examined whether forskolin plus rolipram treatment could induce potentiation at a known glutamatergic synapse in the leech (Hirudo sp.), specifically between the pressure (P) mechanosensory and anterior pagoda (AP) neurons. Perfusion of isolated ganglia with forskolin (50 μM) in conjunction with rolipram (0.1 μM) in Mg2+-free saline significantly potentiated the P-to-AP excitatory postsynaptic potential. Application of 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV, 100 μM), a competitive NMDAR antagonist, blocked the potentiation, indicating P-to-AP potentiation is NMDAR-dependent. Potentiation was blocked by injection of bis-(o-aminophenoxy)- N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid (BAPTA, 1 mM) into the postsynaptic cell, but not by BAPTA injection into the presynaptic neuron, indicating a requirement for postsynaptic elevation of intracellular Ca2+. Application of db-cAMP mimicked the potentiating effects of forskolin, and Rp-cAMP, an inhibitor of protein kinase A, blocked forskolin-induced potentiation. Potentiation was also blocked by autocamtide-2-related inhibitory peptide (AIP), indicating a requirement for activation of Ca2+/ calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII). Finally, potentiation was blocked by botulinum toxin, suggesting that trafficking of glutamate receptors also plays a role in this form of synaptic plasticity. These experiments demonstrate that techniques used to induce cLTP in vertebrate synapses also induce NMDAR-dependent potentiation in the leech CNS and that many of the cellular processes that mediate LTP are conserved between vertebrate and invertebrate phyla.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2719-2724
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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