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Review Article

Exp Neurobiol 2012; 21(3): 101-112

Published online September 30, 2012

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Serotonin and Synaptic Transmission at Invertebrate Neuromuscular Junctions

Wen-Hui Wu and Robin L. Cooper*

Department of Biology & Center for Muscle Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 1-859-257-5950, FAX: 1-859-257-1717


The serotonergic system in vertebrates and invertebrates has been a focus for over 50 years and will likely continue in the future. Recently, genomic analysis and discovery of alternative splicing and differential expression in tissues have increased the knowledge of serotonin (5-HT) receptor types. Comparative studies can provide useful insights to the wide variety of mechanistic actions of 5-HT responsible for behaviors regulated or modified by 5-HT. To determine cellular responses and influences on neural systems as well as the efferent control of behaviors by the motor units, preparations amenable to detailed studies of synapses are beneficial as working models. The invertebrate neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) offer some unique advantages for such investigations; action of 5-HT at crustacean NMJs has been widely studied, and leech and Aplysia continue to be key organisms. However, there are few studies in insects likely due to the focus in modulation within the CNS and lack of evidence of substantial action of 5-HT at the Drosophila NMJs. There are only a few reports in gastropods and annelids as well as other invertebrates. In this review we highlight some of the key findings of 5-HT actions and receptor types associated at NMJs in a variety of invertebrate preparations in hopes that future studies will build on this knowledge base.

Keywords: synapse, reserve pool, readily releasable pool