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Ride The Ca^2+ Wave

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posted on 13.04.2011, 00:00 authored by Michael H. Alpert
Successive images (250ms interval) using a false color map depict the emergence and spread of an intracellular Ca2+ signal (green, black arrow) along the dendrite of a ventral horn neuron in the lamprey spinal cord. The images were generated using a CCD camera mounted on a fluorescent microscope. The cell was filled with a Ca2+-sensitive dye using whole cell patch clamp technique (frame 1: baseline fluorescence). A stimulating electrode was then used to excite nearby interneurons. Neurotransmitter released into the synapse opens ion channels on the filled cell, allowing Ca2+ to enter, causing the dye to fluoresce (frame 2). The wave that spreads vertically may be indicative of further release of Ca2+ from internal stores (frames 3-7). This experiment intended to demonstrate that synaptic activity induces local increases in Ca2+ specific to dendrites as opposed to a change over the entire cell. Ventral horn neurons govern the output of the spinal cord, causing coordinated muscle contraction, leading to rhythmic swimming behavior. Ca2+ fluctuation is intimately involved with the rhythmic excitation of cells in the spinal cord. A demonstration that Ca2+ increases occur in dendrites provides a role for synaptic plasticity and modification of locomotor output. Black scale bar = 40m.


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Entry in 2010 in The Image of Research, a competition for students in graduate or professional degree programs at UIC, sponsored by UIC's Graduate College and the University Library. Images of award recipients and honorable mention images on exhibition in the Richard J. Daley Library and the Library of the Health Sciences, April 15-May 31, 2010.

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