Serotonin release evoked by tail nerve stimulation in the CNS of Aplysia: Characterization and relationship to heterosynaptic plasticity

Stéphane Marinesco, Thomas J. Carew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable experimental evidence suggests that serotonin (5-HT) at sensory neuron→motor neuron (SN→MN) synapses, as well as other neuronal sites, contributes importantly to simple forms of learning such as sensitization and classical conditioning in Aplysia. However, the actual release of 5-HT in the CNS induced by sensitizing stimuli such as tail shock has not been directly demonstrated. In this study, we addressed this question by (1) immunohistochemically labeling central 5-HT processes and (2) directly measuring with chronoamperometry the release of 5-HT induced by pedal tail nerve (P9) shock onto tail SNs in the pleural ganglion and their synapses onto tail MNs in the pedal ganglion. We found that numerous 5-HT-immunoreactive fibers surround both the SN cell bodies in the pleural ganglion and SN axons in the pedal ganglion. Chronoamperometric detection of 5-HT performed with carbon fiber electrodes implanted in the vicinity of tail SN somata and synapses revealed an electrochemical 5-HT signal lasting -40 sec after a brief shock of P9. 5-HT release was restricted to discrete subregions (modulatory fields) of the CNS, including the vicinity of tail SN soma and synapses ipsilateral to the stimulation. Increasing P9 shock frequency augmented the amplitude of the 5-HT signal and, in parallel, increased SN excitability and SN synaptic transmission onto tail MNs. However, the relationship between the amount of 5-HT release and the two forms of SN plasticity was not uniform: SN excitability increased in a graded manner with increased 5-HT release, whereas synaptic facilitation exhibited a highly nonlinear relationship. The development of chronoamperometric techniques in Aplysia now paves the way for a more complete understanding of the contribution of the serotonergic modulatory pathway to memory processing in this system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2299-2312
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2002


  • Carbon fiber electrodes
  • Chronoamperometry
  • Excitability
  • In vivo electrochemistry
  • Neuromodulation
  • Synaptic facilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Serotonin release evoked by tail nerve stimulation in the CNS of Aplysia: Characterization and relationship to heterosynaptic plasticity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this