Lateral excitation is a mechanism for amplifying coordinated input to postsynaptic neurons that has been described recently in several species. Here, we describe how a postsynaptic neuron, the lateral giant (LG) escape command neuron, enhances lateral excitation among its presynaptic mechanosensory afferents in the crayfish tailfan. A lateral excitatory network exists among electrically coupled tailfan primary afferents, mediated through central electrical synapses. EPSPs elicited inLGdendrites as a result of mechanosensory stimulation spread antidromically back through electrical junctions to unstimulated afferents, summate with EPSPs elicited through direct afferent-to-afferent connections, and contribute to recruitment of these afferents. Antidromic potentials are larger if the afferent is closer to the initial input on LG dendrites, which could create a spatial filtering mechanism within the network. This pathway also broadens the temporal window over which lateral excitation can occur, because of the delay required for EPSPs to spread through the large LG dendrites. The delay allows subthreshold inputs to the LG to have a priming effect on the lateral excitatory network and lowers the threshold of the network in response to a second, short-latency stimulus. Retrograde communication within neuronal pathways has been described in a number of vertebrate and invertebrate species.Amechanism of antidromic passage of depolarizing current from a neuron to its presynaptic afferents, similar to that described here in an invertebrate, is also present in a vertebrate (fish). This raises the possibility that short-term retrograde modulation of presynaptic elements through electrical junctions may be common.
Antonsen, B. L., Herberholz, J., Edwards, D.H. (2005). The retrograde spread of synaptic potentials and recruitment of presynaptic inputs. Journal of Neuroscience, 25(12), 3086-3094. Available at: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/12/3086.full.pdf+html?sid=3320b9d6-7731-4c26-bf8a-efc95d3ab4fc Also available at: http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/neurosci_facpub/23/