The species- and situation-specific sound production of grasshoppers can be stimulated by focal application of both nicotinic and muscarinic receptor agonists into the central body complex of the protocerebrum. Pressure injection of the intrinsic transmitter acetylcholine only elicits fast and short-lived responses related to nicotinic receptor-mediated excitation. Prolonged sound production that includes complex song patterns requires muscarinic receptor-mediated excitation. In addition, basal muscarinic excitation in the central body neuropil seems to determine the general motivation of a grasshopper to stridulate. To demonstrate that endogenous acetylcholinesterase limits the activation of muscarinic receptors by synaptically released acetylcholine in the central body of Chorthippus biguttulus, we investigated both its presence in the brain and effects on sound production resulting from inhibition of esterase activity. Acetylcholinesterase activity was detected in the upper and lower division of the central body. Both these neuropils known to be involved in the cephalic control of stridulation were also shown to contain muscarinic acetylcholine receptors expressed by columnar neurons suggested to serve as output neurons of the central complex. Pressure injection of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor eserine into protocerebral control circuits of restrained male grasshoppers stimulated long-lasting stridulation that depended on scopolamine-sensitive muscarinic receptors. In restrained males, eserine released the typical response song by potentiating the stimulatory effect of the conspecific female song. Eserine-mediated inhibition of acetylcholinesterase in the central body prolongs the presence of synaptically released acetylcholine at its postsynaptic receptors and increases its potency to activate muscarinic receptor-initiated signaling pathways acting to promote grasshopper sound production.
control of sound production
muscarinic acetylcholine receptor