A quantum of neurotransmitter causes minis in multiple postsynaptic cells at the Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junction

Qiang Liu, Bojun Chen, David H. Hall, Zhao Wen Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


The polyadic synapse, where a single presynaptic active zone associates with two or more postsynaptic cells, exists in both mammals and invertebrates. An important but unresolved question is whether synaptic transmission occurs between the presynaptic site and its various postsynaptic partners. Using the dual whole-cell voltage clamp technique, we analyzed miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs or minis) at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction (NMJ), which is a polyadic synapse. We found that neighboring muscle cells at the same position along the body axis had high frequencies of concurrent mPSCs, which could not be explained by pure chance. Although body-wall muscle cells are electrically coupled, the high frequency of concurrent mPSCs was not due to electrical coupling because there was no correlation between the frequency of concurrent mPSCs and the degree of electrical coupling; the rise time of concurrent mPSCs was identical to that of nonconcurrent mPSCs but distinct from that of junctional currents (Ij); and a mutant defective in electrical coupling showed normal frequency of concurrent mPSCs. Our analyses suggest that a single quantum of neurotransmitter may cause mPSCs in multiple postsynaptic cells at polyadic synapses, and that high-fidelity synaptic transmission occurs between the presynaptic site and its various postsynaptic partners. Thus, polyadic synapses could be a distinct mechanism for synaptic divergence and for synchronizing activities of postsynaptic cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-128
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007



  • C. elegans
  • Miniature postsynaptic current
  • Minis
  • Neuromuscular junction
  • Polyadic synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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