Journal of neurophysiology

Multiple presynaptic and postsynaptic sites of inhibitory modulation by myomodulin at ARC neuromuscular junctions of Aplysia.

PMID 12626624


The functional activity of even simple cellular ensembles is often controlled by surprisingly complex networks of neuromodulators. One such network has been extensively studied in the accessory radula closer (ARC) neuromuscular system of Aplysia. The ARC muscle is innervated by two motor neurons, B15 and B16, which release modulatory peptide cotransmitters to shape ACh-mediated contractions of the muscle. Previous analysis has shown that key to the combinatorial ability of B15 and B16 to control multiple parameters of the contraction is an asymmetry in their peptide modulatory actions. B16, but not B15, releases myomodulin, which, among other actions, inhibits the contraction. Work in single ARC muscle fibers has identified a distinctive myomodulin-activated K current as a candidate postsynaptic mechanism of the inhibition. However, definitive evidence for this mechanism has been lacking. Here, working with the single fibers and then motor neuron-elicited excitatory junction potentials (EJPs) and contractions of the intact ARC muscle, we have confirmed two central predictions of the K-current hypothesis: the myomodulin inhibition of contraction is associated with a correspondingly large inhibition of the underlying depolarization, and the inhibition of both contraction and depolarization is blocked by 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), a potent and selective blocker of the myomodulin-activated K current. However, in the intact muscle, the experiments revealed a second, 4-AP-resistant component of myomodulin inhibition of both B15- and B16-elicited EJPs. This component resembles, and mutually occludes with, inhibition of the EJPs by another peptide modulator released from both B15 and B16, buccalin, which acts by a presynaptic mechanism, inhibition of ACh release from the motor neuron terminals. Direct measurements of peptide release showed that myomodulin also inhibits buccalin release from B15 terminals. At the level of contractions, nevertheless, the postsynaptic K-current mechanism is responsible for much of the myomodulin inhibition of peak contraction amplitude. The presynaptic mechanism, which is most evident during the initial build-up of the EJP waveform, underlies instead an increase of contraction latency.