Transient electrical coupling delays the onset of chemical neurotransmission at developing synapses. Academic Article uri icon


  • The formation and subsequent elimination of electrical coupling between neurons has been demonstrated in many developing vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems. The relationship between the disappearance of electrical synaptic connectivity and the appearance of chemical neurotransmission is not well understood. We report here that identified motoneurons from the snail Helisoma formed transient electrical and chemical connections during regeneration both in vivo and in vitro. Electrical connections that formed in vivo were strongest by day 2 and no longer detectable by day 7. During elimination of this electrical connection, an inhibitory chemical connection from 110 onto 19 formed. This sequence of synaptic development was recapitulated in cell culture with a similar time course. The relationship between the appearance of transient electrical coupling and its possible effects on the subsequent chemical synaptogenesis were examined by reducing transient intercellular coupling. Trophic factor-deprived medium resulted in a 66% reduction in coupling coefficient. In these conditions, the unidirectional chemical connection formed readily; in contrast, chemical synaptogenesis was delayed in cell pairs exposed to trophic factors where transient electrical coupling was strong. Dye coupling and synaptic vesicle cycling studies supported electrophysiological results. Exposure to cholinergic antagonists, curare and hexamethonium bromide, which block chemical neurotransmission in these synapses, resulted in prolonged maintenance of the electrical connection. These studies demonstrated an inverse relationship between chemical and electrical connectivity at early stages of synaptic development and suggest a dynamic interaction between these forms of neuronal communication as adult neural networks are constructed or regenerated.

published proceedings

  • J Neurosci

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Szabo, T. M., Faber, D. S., & Zoran, M. J.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Szabo, Theresa M||Faber, Donald S||Zoran, Mark J

publication date

  • January 2004