Convergent and divergent modulatory pathways in Aplysia: Cellular and network studies

Jennifer Lynn Raymond, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Neuromodulation is essential to many functions of the nervous system. In the simple gastropod mollusk Aplysia californica, neuromodulation of the circuits for the defensive withdrawal reflexes has been associated with several forms of learning. In the present work, the neurotransmitters and neural circuitry which contribute to the modulation of the tail-siphon withdrawal reflex were examined. A recently-identified neuropeptide transmitter, buccalin A was found to modulate the biophysical properties of the sensory neurons that mediate the reflex. The actions of buccalin A on the sensory neurons were compared with those of the well-characterized modulatory transmitter serotonin, and convergence and divergence in the actions of these two transmitters were evaluated. Buccalin A dramatically increased the excitability of sensory neurons and occluded further enhancement of excitability by serotonin. Buccalin A produced no significant change in spike duration, and it did not block serotonin-induced spike broadening. Voltage-clamp analysis revealed the currents that may be involved in the effects on spike duration and excitability. Buccalin A decreased an outward current similar to the S-K$\sp+$ current (I$\sb{\rm K,S}$). Buccalin A appeared to occlude further modulation of I$\sb{\rm K,S}$ by serotonin, but did not block serotonin-induced modulation of the voltage-dependent delayed rectifier K$\sp+$ current (I$\sb{\rm K,V}$). These results suggest that buccalin A converges on some, but not all, of the same subcellular modulatory pathways as serotonin. In order to begin to understand neuromodulation in a more physiological context for the tail-siphon withdrawal reflex, the modulatory circuitry for the tail-withdrawal circuit was examined. Mechanoafferent neurons in the J cluster of the cerebral ganglion were identified as elements of a modulatory circuit for the reflex. Excitatory and inhibitory connections were observed between the J cells and the pleural sensory neurons, the tail motor neurons, and several classes of interneurons for the tail-siphon withdrawal circuit. The J cells produced both fast and slow PSPs in these neurons. Of particular interest was the ability of the J cells to produce slow EPSPs in the pleural sensory neurons. These slow EPSPs were associated with an increase in the excitability of the sensory neurons. The J cells appear to mediate both sensory and modulatory inputs to the circuit for the tail-siphon withdrawal reflex from the anterior part of the animal.

Subject Area

Neurology|Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

Raymond, Jennifer Lynn, "Convergent and divergent modulatory pathways in Aplysia: Cellular and network studies" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9324940.