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Published November 26, 2010 | Accepted Version + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Alpha-conotoxin ImI disrupts central control of swimming in the medicinal leech


Medicinal leeches (Hirudo spp.) swim using a metachronal, front-to-back undulation. The behavior is generated by central pattern generators (CPGs) distributed along the animal's midbody ganglia and is coordinated by both central and peripheral mechanisms. Here we report that a component of the venom of Conus imperialis, α-conotoxin ImI, known to block nicotinic acetyl-choline receptors in other species, disrupts swimming. Leeches injected with the toxin swam in circles with exaggerated dorsoventral bends and reduced forward velocity. Fictive swimming in isolated nerve cords was even more strongly disrupted, indicating that the toxin targets the CPGs and central coordination, while peripheral coordination partially rescues the behavior in intact animals.

Additional Information

© 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. Received 26 May 2010; revised 5 August 2010; accepted 26 August 2010. Available online 15 September 2010. We thank Dr. Baldomero Olivera and his laboratory for supplying Conus venoms and ImI in the early phases of this work. This work was supported by NIH Research Grants MH43396 and NS35336 (to WBK), by a Senior Research Fellowship from the Broad Foundations (to DAW) and by Microsoft Research Labs. DAW holds a Career Award at the Scientific Interface from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - nihms236374.pdf

Supplemental Material - f.pdf


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