We describe the role of the octopamine-containing OC interneurons in the buccal feeding system of Lymnaea stagnalis. OC neurons are swallowing phase interneurons receiving inhibitory inputs in the N1 and N2 phases, and excitatory inputs in the N3 phase of fictive feeding. Although the OC neurons do not always fire during feeding, the feeding rate is significantly (P < 0.001) higher when both SO and OC fire in each cycle than when only the SO fires. In 28% of silent preparations, a single stimulation of an OC interneuron evokes the feeding pattern. Repetitive stimulation of the OC interneuron increases the proportion of responsive preparations to 41%. The OC interneuron not only changes both the feeding rate and reconfigures the pattern. Depolarization of the OC interneurons increases the feeding rate and removes the B3 motor neuron from the firing sequence. Hyperpolarization slows it down (increasing the duration of N1 and N3 phases) and recruits the B3 motor neuron. OC interneurons form synaptic connections onto buccal motor neurons and interneurons but not onto the cerebral (cerebral giant cell) modulatory neurons. OC interneurons are electrically coupled to all N3 phase (B4, B4Cl, B8) feeding motor neurons. They form symmetrical connections with the N3p interneurons having dual electrical (excitatory) and chemical (inhibitory) components. OC interneurons evoke biphasic synaptic inputs on the protraction phase interneurons (SO, N1L, N1M), with a short inhibition followed by a longer lasting depolarization. N2d interneurons are hyperpolarized, while N2v interneurons are slowly depolarized and often fire a burst after OC stimulation. Most motor neurons also receive synaptic responses from the OC interneurons. Although OC and N3p interneurons are both swallowing phase interneurons, their synaptic contacts onto follower neurons are usually different (e.g., the B3 motor neurons are inhibited by OC, but excited by N3p interneurons). Repetitive stimulation of OC interneuron facilitates the excitatory component of the biphasic responses evoked on the SO, N1L, and N1M interneurons, but neither the N2 nor the N3 phase interneurons display a similar longer-lasting excitatory effect. OC interneurons are inhibited by all the buccal feeding interneurons, but excited by the serotonergic modulatory CGC neurons. We conclude that OC interneurons are a new kind of swallowing phase interneurons. Their connections with the buccal feeding interneurons can account for their modulatory effects on the feeding rhythm. As they contain octopamine, this is the first example in Lymnaea that monoaminergic modulation and reconfiguration are provided by an intrinsic member of the buccal feeding network.
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