Novel synapses compensate for a neuron ablated in embryos

B. K. Modney, K. J. Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In leeches, as well as mammals, neuronal death in adults produces lasting deficits, whereas the embryonic nervous system is believed to be more plastic. Killing the single S interneuron in an adult leech ganglion permanently interrupts the chain of S cells linked by electrical synapses along the entire animal. Axons that synapsed with the ablated neuron do not change length in response to cell ablation, but they will grow if another axon of the same neuron is injured. In the present experiments, the S cell and surrounding cells in one ganglion were ablated with a fine pin during embryogenesis (day 8-11). Effects were evaluated 1-4 months later. Cell-specific monoclonal antibody confirmed S cell deletions. Intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase and 6-carboxyfluorescein dye showed that intact S cells' axons projected twice their usual length into the lesioned ganglion and formed electrical synapses with homologues of their usual synaptic targets. Conduction was often restored by these connections, which replaced those of the deleted S cell. Therefore, in both adults and embryos, growing S interneurons respond to loss of a target by greater growth. However, only on the small scale of the embryo is growth sufficient to reach suitable targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1350
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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