Presynaptic structure of aplysia single live neuron by atomic force and confocal laser scanning microscope.

The structural and functional plasticity of Aplysia mechanosensory presynaptic neurons has been studied in relation with the mechanism underlying learning and memory. Long-term facilitation (LTF), which is a well-known cellular model for long-term memory in Aplysia , is accompanied by new synaptic structural growth or change. We developed a combined atomic force microscope and confocal laser scanning microscope (AFM-CLSM) system integrated with a MATLAB routine for image processing to concurrently obtain high-resolution 3-dimensional (3D) outer-surface morphological images and 3D interior fluorescence images. With our combined AFM-CLSM system, volumetric changes in the presynaptic structures (varicosities) of Aplysia live sensory-motor neuron cocultures were observed. The spatial distribution of synaptic vesicle molecules in the preexisting varicosities was monitored together with a volumetric change in the varicosities. Our combined AFM-CLSM system is successfully adapted for measuring learning-related structural changes and the movement of synaptic molecules in the single live neuron through interaction force and fluorescence imaging.