Neurons controlling Aplysia feeding inhibit themselves by continuous No production

Nimrod Miller, Ravit Saada, Shlomi Fishman, Itay Hurwitz, Abraham J. Susswein

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19 Scopus citations


Background: Neural activity can be affected by nitric oxide (NO) produced by spiking neurons. Can neural activity also be affected by NO produced in neurons in the absence of spiking? Methodology/Principal Findings: Applying an NO scavenger to quiescent Aplysia buccal ganglia initiated fictive feeding, indicating that NO production at rest inhibits feeding. The inhibition is in part via effects on neurons B31/B32, neurons initiating food consumption. Applying NO scavengers or nitric oxide synthase (NOS) blockers to B31/B32 neurons cultured in isolation caused inactive neurons to depolarize and fire, indicating that B31/B32 produce NO tonically without action potentials, and tonic NO production contributes to the B31/B32 resting potentials. Guanylyl cyclase blockers also caused depolarization and firing, indicating that the cGMP second messenger cascade, presumably activated by the tonic presence of NO, contributes to the B31/B32 resting potential. Blocking NO while voltage-clamping revealed an inward leak current, indicating that NO prevents this current from depolarizing the neuron. Blocking nitrergic transmission had no effect on a number of other cultured, isolated neurons. However, treatment with NO blockers did excite cerebral ganglion neuron C-PR, a command-like neuron initiating food-finding behavior, both in situ, and when the neuron was cultured in isolation, indicating that this neuron also inhibits itself by producing NO at rest. Conclusion/Significance: Self-inhibitory, tonic NO production is a novel mechanism for the modulation of neural activity. Localization of this mechanism to critical neurons in different ganglia controlling different aspects of a behavior provides a mechanism by which a humeral signal affecting background NO production, such as the NO precursor L-arginine, could control multiple aspects of the behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17779
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 9 Mar 2011


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