Graduate Student, Caleb Bostwick, Dr. Leonid Moroz & colleagues publish in Dec 14, 2016 PNAS

Hyperpolarization-activated, cyclic nucleotide-gated cation channels in Aplysia: Contribution to classical conditioning. Yang Q, Kuzyk P, Antonov I, Bostwick CJ, Kohn AB, Moroz LL, Hawkins RD. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015.

Hyperpolarization-activated, cyclic nucleotide-gated cation (HCN) channels are critical regulators of neuronal excitability, but less is known about their possible roles in synaptic plasticity and memory circuits. Here, we characterized the HCN gene organization, channel properties, distribution, and involvement in associative and nonassociative forms of learning in Aplysia californica. Aplysia has only one HCN gene, which codes for a channel that has many similarities to the mammalian HCN channel. The cloned acHCN gene was expressed in Xenopus oocytes, which displayed a hyperpolarization-induced inward current that was enhanced by cGMP as well as cAMP. Similarly to its homologs in other animals, acHCN is permeable to K+ and Na+ ions, and is selectively blocked by Cs+ and ZD7288. We found that acHCN is predominantly expressed in inter- and motor neurons, including LFS siphon motor neurons, and therefore tested whether HCN channels are involved in simple forms of learning of the siphon-withdrawal reflex in a semiintact preparation. ZD7288 (100 μM) significantly reduced an associative form of learning (classical conditioning) but had no effect on two nonassociative forms of learning (intermediate-term sensitization and unpaired training) or baseline responses. The HCN current is enhanced by nitric oxide (NO), which may explain the postsynaptic role of NO during conditioning. HCN current in turn enhances the NMDA-like current in the motor neurons, suggesting that HCN channels contribute to conditioning through this pathway.

KEYWORDS: Aplysia; HCN channels; NMDA; learning and memory; nitric oxide