Monday, June 10, 2019

Recent alumnus Thomas James (2018) recently published this study in eLife with his mentor, C. Andrew Frank. The Frank lab researches the ability of neurons to self-regulate their own activity (i.e., homeostatic plasticity), and this study examines the role of second messenger pathways at the fruit fly neuromuscular synapse.


Synapses and circuits rely on neuroplasticity to adjust output and meet physiological needs. Forms of homeostatic synaptic plasticity impart stability at synapses by countering destabilizing perturbations. The Drosophila melanogasterlarval neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a model synapse with robust expression of homeostatic plasticity. At the NMJ, a homeostatic system detects impaired postsynaptic sensitivity to neurotransmitter and activates a retrograde signal that restores synaptic function by adjusting neurotransmitter release. This process has been separated into temporally distinct phases, induction and maintenance. One prevailing hypothesis is that a shared mechanism governs both phases. Here, we show the two phases are separable. Combining genetics, pharmacology, and electrophysiology, we find that a signaling system consisting of PLCβ, inositol triphosphate (IP3), IP3 receptors, and Ryanodine receptors is required only for the maintenance of homeostatic plasticity. We also find that the NMJ is capable of inducing homeostatic signaling even when its sustained maintenance process is absent.