One emerging principle is that neuromodulators, such as neuropeptides, regulate multiple behaviors, particularly motivated behaviors, e.g., feeding and locomotion. However, how neuromodulators act on multiple neural networks to exert their actions remains poorly understood. These actions depend on the chemical form of the peptide, e.g., an alternation of L- to D- form of an amino acid can endow the peptide with bioactivity, as is the case for the Aplysia peptide GdFFD (where dF indicates D-phenylalanine). GdFFD has been shown to act as an extrinsic neuromodulator in the feeding network, while the all L-amino acid form, GFFD, was not bioactive. Given that both GdFFD/GFFD are also present in pedal neurons that mediate locomotion, we sought to determine whether they impact locomotion. We first examined effects of both peptides on isolated ganglia, and monitored fictive programs using the parapedal commissural nerve (PPCN). Indeed, GdFFD was bioactive and GFFD was not. GdFFD increased the frequency with which neural activity was observed in the PPCN. In part, there was an increase in bursting spiking activity that resembled fictive locomotion. Additionally, there was significant activity between bursts. To determine how the peptide-induced activity in the isolated CNS is translated into behavior, we recorded animal movements, and developed a computer program to automatically track the animal and calculate the path of movement and velocity of locomotion. We found that GdFFD significantly reduced locomotion and induced a foot curl. These data suggest that the increase in PPCN activity observed in the isolated CNS during GdFFD application corresponds to a reduction, rather than an increase, in locomotion. In contrast, GFFD had no effect. Thus, our study suggests that GdFFD may act as an intrinsic neuromodulator in the Aplysia.
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