Motor pattern selection by nitric oxide in the stomatogastric nervous system of the crab


  • All authors contributed equally to this study.

Dr Wolfgang Stein, as above.


The gas nitric oxide (NO) serves a diversity of functions in the nervous system and plays an important role in the modulation of oscillatory networks. We investigated the actions of intrinsically produced NO on the rhythmically active gastric mill circuit within the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) of the crab, Cancer pagurus. Bath application of different NO blockers exclusively to the STG terminated spontaneously active gastric mill rhythms. Furthermore, a reduction in the activity levels of projection neurons that sustain the gastric mill rhythm was observed, suggesting that NO blockade influences feedback mechanisms that affect projection neuron activity. When STG feedback to these projection neurons was intact, their activity decreased strongly with NO blockers present exclusively in the STG. When either neuronal feedback was eliminated or projection neurons were tonically activated, NO blockade did not terminate the gastric mill rhythm, indicating an indirect ascending control of the projection neurons. Together, our results show that ascending feedback from a motor network is important in shaping network activity and that this feedback is state-dependent and can be modulated to alter the output of the motor network.