In this communication we report that four substances, thought to function as neurohormones in Crustacea, all produce long-term changes in the physiological properties of lobster opener muscle preparations. The substances are the amines, octopamine, serotonin and dopamine, and the peptide, proctolin. The actions of these substances are superimposed on the normal synaptic apparatus that utilizes the amino acids GABA and glutamate (probably) as the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitter compounds.
Serotonin acts on excitatory and inhibitory nerve endings to facilitate transmitter release and directly on muscle fibres to produce a contracture and to induce the appearance of Ca2+ action potentials. The latter two actions of serotonin are shared by proctolin and octopamine as well. Dopamine, on the other hand, relaxes muscle baseline tension. The mechanism of action of these substances at their target site (or sites) has been explored with electrophysiological and biochemical techniques and the results will be presented.
In addition preliminary behavioural experiments have been carried out with serotonin and octopamine. These substances produce opposite postures when injected into lobsters. The amines act on central ganglia to produce these effects where they cause a programmed readout of firing of neurones that will produce either a flexed posture (serotonin) or an extended posture (octopamine).