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Aponte-Santiago, N.A., Ormerod, K.G., Akbergenova, Y., Littleton, J.T. (2020). Synaptic Plasticity Induced by Differential Manipulation of Tonic and Phasic Motoneurons in Drosophila.  J. Neurosci. 40(33): 6270--6288.
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Research paper

Structural and functional plasticity induced by neuronal competition is a common feature of developing nervous systems. However, the rules governing how postsynaptic cells differentiate between presynaptic inputs are unclear. In this study, we characterized synaptic interactions following manipulations of tonic Ib or phasic Is glutamatergic motoneurons that coinnervate postsynaptic muscles of male or female Drosophila melanogaster larvae. After identifying drivers for each neuronal subtype, we performed ablation or genetic manipulations to alter neuronal activity and examined the effects on synaptic innervation and function at neuromuscular junctions. Ablation of either Ib or Is resulted in decreased muscle response, with some functional compensation occurring in the Ib input when Is was missing. In contrast, the Is terminal failed to show functional or structural changes following loss of the coinnervating Ib input. Decreasing the activity of the Ib or Is neuron with tetanus toxin light chain resulted in structural changes in muscle innervation. Decreased Ib activity resulted in reduced active zone (AZ) number and decreased postsynaptic subsynaptic reticulum volume, with the emergence of filopodial-like protrusions from synaptic boutons of the Ib input. Decreased Is activity did not induce structural changes at its own synapses, but the coinnervating Ib motoneuron increased the number of synaptic boutons and AZs it formed. These findings indicate that tonic Ib and phasic Is motoneurons respond independently to changes in activity, with either functional or structural alterations in the Ib neuron occurring following ablation or reduced activity of the coinnervating Is input, respectively.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Both invertebrate and vertebrate nervous systems display synaptic plasticity in response to behavioral experiences, indicating that underlying mechanisms emerged early in evolution. How specific neuronal classes innervating the same postsynaptic target display distinct types of plasticity is unclear. Here, we examined whether Drosophila tonic Ib and phasic Is motoneurons display competitive or cooperative interactions during innervation of the same muscle, or compensatory changes when the output of one motoneuron is altered. We established a system to differentially manipulate the motoneurons and examined the effects of cell type-specific changes to one of the inputs. Our findings indicate Ib and Is motoneurons respond differently to activity mismatch or loss of the coinnervating input, with the Ib subclass responding robustly compared with Is motoneurons.

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PMC7424871 (PMC) (EuropePMC)
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    Publication Type
    J. Neurosci.
    Journal of Neuroscience
    Publication Year
    0270-6474 1529-2401
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