A characteristic physiological property of the neuromuscular junction between giant motor neurones (MoGs) and fast flexor muscles in crayfish is synaptic depression, in which repetitive electrical stimulation of the MoG results in a progressive decrease in excitatory junction potential (EJP) amplitude in flexor muscle fibres. Previous studies have demonstrated that l-arginine (l-Arg) modulates neuromuscular transmission. Since l-Arg is a precursor of nitric oxide (NO), we examined the possibility that NO may be involved in modulating neuromuscular transmission from MoGs to abdominal fast flexor muscles. The effect of a NO-generating compound, NOC7, was similar to that of l-Arg, reversibly decreasing the EJP amplitude mediated by the MoG. While NOC7 reduced the amplitude of the EJP, it induced no significant change in synaptic depression. In contrast, a scavenger of free radical NO, carboxy-PTIO, and an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, l-NAME, reversibly increased the EJP amplitude mediated by MoGs. Synaptic depression mediated by repetitive stimulation of MoGs at 1 Hz was partially blocked by bath application of l-NAME. Bath application of a NO scavenger, a NOS inhibitor and NO-generating compounds had no significant effects on the depolarisation of the muscle fibres evoked by local application of l-glutamate. The opposing effects on EJP amplitude of NOC7 and of carboxy-PTIO and l-NAME suggest that endogenous NO presynaptically modulates neuromuscular transmission and that it could play a prominent role at nerve terminals in eliciting MoG-mediated synaptic depression in the crayfish Procambarus clarkii.

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