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The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) of Caenorhabditis elegans has proved to be a very useful model synapse for investigating molecular mechanisms of synaptic transmission. Intriguingly, miniature postsynaptic currents (minis) at this synapse occur at an unusually high frequency (50-90 Hz in wild-type worms) and show large variation in quantal size (from <10 pA to >200 pA). It is important to understand the cellular and molecular bases for these properties of minis in order to interpret electrophysiological data from this synapse properly. Existing data suggest that several factors may contribute to the high frequency and quantal size variation, including 1) the establishment of multiple NMJs with each body-wall muscle cell, 2) diversity of postsynaptic receptors (two acetylcholine receptors and one GABA receptor), 3) association of one presynaptic site with several body-wall muscle cells, 4) effects of Ca(2+) at the presynaptic site, and 5) a possibly elevated (less negative) resting membrane potential in motoneurons. Neither the frequency nor the quantal size of minis is affected by electrical coupling of body-wall muscle cells. Furthermore, quantal size variation is not due to synchronized multivesicular release. Analyses of the C. elegans NMJ may lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms controlling the frequency and quantal size of minis of other synapses as well. Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


Zhao-Wen Wang. Origin of quantal size variation and high-frequency miniature postsynaptic currents at the Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junction. Journal of neuroscience research. 2010 Dec;88(16):3425-32

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PMID: 20722072

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