Caudal hair cell impulses cause postsynaptic inhibition of ipsilateral type B photoreceptors in the snail Hermissenda. This inhibition is shown to be GABAergic according to a number of criteria. HPLC, mass spectrophotometric, and immunocytochemical techniques demonstrated the presence of GABA in the hair cells and their axons. GABA agonists and antagonists mimic and block the synaptic effect in a manner consistent with endogenous GABAergic transmission. Other properties, including I-V relations, conductance changes and reversal potentials, are comparable for exogenous GABA responses and endogenous effects of the hair cell impulses. This inhibitory synapse has been found to undergo a long-lasting transformation into an excitatory synapse if GABA release is paired with post-synaptic depolarization. GABA, via GABAA and GABAB receptors in the B cell, causes the opening of calcium sensitive chloride and potassium channels that leads to the post-synaptic hyperpolarization. GABA also induces a long-lasting intracellular calcium elevation at the terminal branches of the B cell that greatly outlasts the voltage responses. Synaptic transformation induced by pairings is caused by a decrease in both GABA induced chloride and potassium conductances in the post-synaptic B cell, as well as a significant prolongation of the intracellular calcium accumulation in the B cell's terminal axonal branches.
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