1. Recordings of evoked postganglionic compound action potentials (CAPs) evoked by preganglionic stimulation were obtained from guinea pig superior cervical ganglia (SCGs) in vitro to study the effects of specific antigen challenge on ganglionic synaptic transmission. SCGs were removed from guinea pigs actively sensitized to ovalbumin. 2. Exposing SCGs from sensitized animals to the sensitizing antigen (0.01-10 μg/ml) for 5 min produced a sustained increase in the magnitude of the evoked CAP unaccompanied by a change in the preganglionic volley. Nonsensitizing antigens were ineffective. Also ineffective were antigens applied to nonsensitized SCG. This persistent antigen-induced increase in synaptic transmission was designated antigen induced long-term potentiation (LTP) (A-LTP) because its duration (> 30 min) greatly outlasted posttetanic potentiation (PTP) in this ganglion. 3. A-LTP and neurogenic LTP (N-LTP) were observed to coexist in the same ganglion: the presence of one form of synaptic plasticity did not preclude the development of the other. Both phenomena were influenced by presynaptic factors: prolonged (2 h, 40 Hz) repetitive presynaptic stimulation abolished A-LTP or N-LTP but did not affect PTP. 4. By contrast to N-LTP, which requires a brief presynaptic tetanus, A-LTP could be triggered over a wide range of presynaptic stimulation (0.016-3 Hz) or even in the absence of presynaptic stimulation. 5. The amplitude and duration of A-LTP were not significantly affected by 1) H1, H2, or H3 histamine receptor antagonists added before or after antigen challenge: 2) the presence of saturating concentrations of histamine (100-300 μM); 3) the presence of specific or nonspecific lipoxygenase inhibitors or a selective cyclooxygenase inhibitor; or 4) blockade of alpha- or beta-adrenergic receptors, 5-HT3 receptors, muscarinic receptors, or glutamate receptors, or inhibition of acetylcholinesterase or protein synthesis. 6. Our results indicate that specific antigen challenge of isolated sympathetic ganglia activates resident mast cells to release substances that initiate a novel form of synaptic plasticity, an activity- independent and long-lasting increase in synaptic efficacy.
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