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J Neurobiol. 1997 Apr;32(4):359-76.

Role of presynaptic inputs to proprioceptive afferents in tuning sensorimotor pathways of an insect joint control network.

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University of Kaiserlautern, Germany.


The femur-tibia (FT) joint of insects is governed by a neuronal network that controls activity in tibial motoneurons by processing sensory information about tibial position and movement provided by afferents of the femoral chordotonal organ (fCO). We show that central arborizations of fCO afferents receive presynaptic depolarizing synaptic inputs. With an average resting potential of -71.9 +/- 3.72 mV (n = 10), the reversal potential of these potentials is on average -62.8 +/- 2.3 mV (n = 5). These synaptic potentials occur either spontaneously or are related to movements at the fCO. They are thus induced by signals from other fCO afferents. Therefore, the synaptic inputs to fCO afferents are specific and depend on the sensitivity of the individual afferent affected. These potentials reduce the amplitude of concurrent afferent action potentials. Bath application of picrotoxin, a noncompetitive blocker of chloride ion channels, blocks these potentials, which indicates that they are mediated by chloride ions. From these results, it is concluded that these are inhibitory synaptic potentials generated in the central terminals of fCO afferents. Pharmacologic removal of these potentials affects the tuning of the complete FT control system. Following removal, the dependence of the FT control loop on the tibia position increases relative to the dependency on the velocity of tibia movements. This is due to changes in the relative weighting of the position and velocity signals in the parallel interneuronal pathways from the fCO onto tibial motoneurons. Consequently, the FT joint is no longer able to perform twig mimesis (i.e., catalepsy), which is known to rely on a low position compared to the high-velocity dependency of the FT control system.

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