Egg laying in pulmonate snails is a well-orchestrated process that involves a period of reduced locomotion, followed by substrate cleaning with rhythmic rasping of the surface to make tiny grooves, into which eggs are deposited. Although the neurohormonal control of initiating egg laying has been well established, the signals that modulate the buccal central pattern generator to substrate cleaning during egg laying are not known. Neuropeptides of the invertebrate gonadotropin-releasing hormone/corazonin family (invGnRH/CRZ) have been shown to be involved in reproduction and allied behaviors in many vertebrates and invertebrates. Here, we show that the buccal motor pattern underlying substrate cleaning during egg laying is altered by a vertebrate GnRH agonist. Signals from the intestinal nerve innervating reproductive structures, previously shown to be both necessary and sufficient for egg-laying behaviors, are blocked by a vertebrate GnRH antagonist. Further, the vertebrate GnRH-triggered response elicits rhythmic, phase 2 and non-phase 2 activity in the buccal motor pattern, with a shutdown of phase 3, indicative of repetitive rasping without accompanied swallowing behavior. Using immunohistochemistry, intracellular electrophysiology and extracellular nerve stimulation, we show that a member of the invGnRH/CRZ family of neuropeptides could be the signal that contextually switches the multifunctional buccal CPG to a biphasic rasping rhythm that underlies substrate cleaning behavior during egg laying in the pulmonate snail Planorbella (Helisoma) trivolvis.

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