Rescheduling Behavioral Subunits of a Fixed Action Pattern by Genetic Manipulation of Peptidergic Signaling
Neuropeptides play a key role in the regulation of behaviors and physiological responses including alertness, social recognition, and hunger, yet, their mechanism of action is poorly understood. Here, we focus on the endocrine control ecdysis behavior, which is used by arthropods to shed their cuticle at the end of every molt. Ecdysis is triggered by ETH (Ecdysis triggering hormone), and we show that the response of peptidergic neurons that produce CCAP (crustacean cardioactive peptide), which are key targets of ETH and control the onset of ecdysis behavior, depends fundamentally on the actions of neuropeptides produced by other direct targets of ETH and released in a broad paracrine manner within the CNS; by autocrine influences from the CCAP neurons themselves; and by inhibitory actions mediated by GABA. Our findings provide insights into how this critical insect behavior is controlled and general principles for understanding how neuropeptides organize neuronal activity and behaviors.