Diversity of Nicotinic Synapses in Sympathetic Ganglia


Principal Investigator: John Horn
Abstract: The long-term goal of this project is to determine how diversity in the cellular expression of neuronal nicotinic receptors contributes to synaptic function in mammalian sympathetic ganglia. This research will be done in Kiev, Ukraine as an extension of NIH grant #R01 NS21065. The project's central hypothesis states that neurons serving different effector modalities express distinct combinations of nicotinic receptor subunits, as a means for regulating the duration of fast excitatory postsynaptic potentials and thereby controlling the synaptic amplification of preganglionic activity. The proposed experiments will use electrophysiology to assess nicotinic receptors in rat sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons. Specific aim 1 is to identify kinetic features that distinguish nicotinic receptors on functional subsets of sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons. The integrative consequences of these data will then be evaluated using computational models that simulate synaptic activity in autonomic ganglia. Specific aim 2 is to extend the pharmacological profile of synaptic receptors on vasomotor sympathetic neurons by systematic characterization of novel open-channel blockers and antisera against alpha-subunits of nicotinic receptors. The goal is to develop a rational basis for designing new compounds that would be highly selective for vasomotor sympathetic neurons and other autonomic modalities. Such compounds could be used to further dissect the roles of different autonomic cell groups and may have clinical applications. Specific aim 3 is to determine whether alpha-bungarotoxin-sensitive nicotinic receptors contribute to fast synaptic transmission in sympathetic ganglia. This will test whether recent work on avian autonomic ganglia also holds true in mammalian neurons that are known to express the alpha-7 nicotinic subunit. Resolving the issues posed by each specific aim would have fundamental implications for our understanding of ganglionic integration. Nicotinic synapses in autonomic ganglia are important for public health because they are essential for autonomic behaviors that are disrupted by aging and neurological disease (e.g. cardiovascular adaptation to exercise, reproduction, thermoregulation and defensive adaptation to stress).
Funding Period: 2002-05-01 - 2006-04-30
more information: NIH RePORT