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J Neurobiol. 2003 Mar;54(4):604-17.

Convergence of mechanosensory inputs onto neuromodulatory serotonergic neurons in the leech.

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Departamento de Biofísica, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, UNAM, Apartado Postal 70-253, C.P. 04510, D.F., México.


By the frequency-dependent release of serotonin, Retzius neurons in the leech modulate diverse behavioral responses of the animal. However, little is known about how their firing pattern is produced. Here we have analyzed the effects of mechanical stimulation of the skin and intracellular stimulation of mechanosensory neurons on the electrical activity of Retzius neurons. We recorded the electrical activity of neurons in ganglia attached to their corresponding skin segment by segmental nerve roots, or in isolated ganglia. Mechanosensory stimulation of the skin induced excitatory synaptic potentials (EPSPs) and action potentials in both Retzius neurons in a ganglion. The frequency and duration of responses depended on the strength and duration of the skin stimulation. Retzius cells responded after T and P cells, but before N cells, and their sustained responses correlated with the activity of P cells. Trains of five impulses at 10 Hz in every individual T, P, or N cell in isolated ganglia produced EPSPs and action potentials in Retzius neurons. Responses to T cell stimulation appeared after the first impulse. In contrast, the responses to P or N cell stimulation appeared after two or more presynaptic impulses and facilitated afterward. The polysynaptic nature of all the synaptic inputs was shown by blocking them with a high calcium/magnesium external solution. The rise time distribution of EPSPs produced by the different mechanosensory neurons suggested that several interneurons participate in this pathway. Our results suggest that sensory stimulation provides a mechanism for regulating serotonin-mediated modulation in the leech.

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