Indexed on: 28 Mar '08Published on: 28 Mar '08Published in: Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.)
The neuronal nucleus is now widely accepted as playing a vital role in maintaining long-term changes in synaptic effectiveness. To act, however, the nucleus must be appropriately relayed with information regarding the latest round of synaptic plasticity. Several constraints of doing so in a neuron pertain to the often significant spatial distance of synapses from the nucleus and the number of synapses required for such a signal to reach functional levels in the nucleus. Largely based on the sensitivity of transcriptional responses to NMDA receptor antagonists, it has been postulated that the signals are physically relayed by biochemical messengers from the synapse to the nucleus. Alternatively, a second, less often considered but equally viable method of signal transduction may be initiated by action potentials generated proximal to the nucleus, wherefrom the signal can be relayed directly by calcium or indirectly by biochemical second messengers. We consider action potential-dependent signaling to the nucleus to have its own computational advantages over the synapse-to-nucleus signal for some functions. This minireview summarizes the logic and experimental support for these two modes of signaling and attempts to validate the action potential model as playing an important role in transcriptional regulation relating specifically to long-term synaptic plasticity.