Touch (T) sensory neurons in the leech innervate defined regions of skin and synapse on other neurons, including other T cells, within the ganglionic neuropil. The cells' receptive fields in the periphery are comprised of a central region, innervated by thick axons, and adjoining regions (minor fields) innervated by thinner axons. Secondary branches, known to be sites of synapses, emerge from the thinner and thicker axons. Pairs of T cells appear to make up to 200 separate contacts distributed within the neuropil. When the T cell is hyperpolarized, as occurs during natural stimulation of the cell, action potentials generated in the minor field and travelling into the ganglion along the thin axons may fail to conduct at central branch points. Evidence is presented, using axon conduction block and laser axotomy of cells filled with 6-carboxy-fluorescein, that synapses between separate groups of branches can function independently. Thus, selective activation of branches of the thin anterior axon produced a synaptic potential 36 +/- 6% of control amplitude, which was consistent with counts of 39 +/- 6% of contacts made by these branches. Laser axotomy of postsynaptic neurons showed that the anterior contacts indeed made the principal or only contacts activated during anterior conduction block. The results show that conduction block can modulate transmission within the ganglion, and it operates by silencing particular contacts between cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience