Initiation of swimming activity by trigger neurons in the leech subesophageal ganglion. I. Output connections of Tr1 and Tr2

J Comp Physiol A. 1986 Oct;159(4):489-502. doi: 10.1007/BF00604169.


The aim of this study was to identify neurons in the subesophageal ganglion of the medicinal leech which initiate swimming activity and to determine their output connections. We found two bilaterally symmetrical pairs of interneurons, Tr1 and Tr2, located in the first division of the subesophageal ganglion which initiate swimming activity in the isolated nervous system when depolarized with brief (1-3 s) current pulses. Tr1 and Tr2 are considered trigger neurons because elicited swimming episodes outlast the stimulus duration, and because the length of elicited swim episodes is nearly independent of the intensity with which Tr1 and Tr2 are stimulated. Tr1 and Tr2 have similar morphologies. The neurites of both cells cross contralaterally in the subesophageal ganglion, project posteriorly, and exit the subesophageal ganglion in the contralateral connective. The axons of Tr1 and Tr2 extend as far posterior as segmental ganglion 18 of the ventral nerve cord. Tr1 provides direct excitatory drive to three groups of segmental neurons which are capable of initiating swimming: swim-initiating interneurons (cells 204 and 205), serotonin-containing interneurons (cells 61 and 21), and the serotonergic Retzius cells. In addition, all Retzius cells in the subesophageal ganglion are excited directly by Tr1. These three groups of neurons are excited even if Tr1 stimulation is subthreshold for swim initiation. In contrast to Tr1, Tr2 stimulation evokes transient inhibition in swim-initiating and serotonin-containing interneurons, and has little immediate effect on Retzius cells. In addition, Tr2 indirectly inhibits several oscillator neurons, including cells 208, 33, and 60. When Tr1 is stimulated during a swimming episode the swim period decreases for several cycles, while stimulation of Tr2 during swimming episodes reliably resets the ongoing swimming rhythm. Our findings indicate that Tr1 and Tr2 are trigger neurons which initiate swimming activity by different pathways. These neurons also have functional interactions with the swim oscillator network since either Tr1 or Tr2 stimulation during swimming can modulate the ongoing swimming rhythm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ganglia / cytology
  • Ganglia / physiology*
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Leeches / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Periodicity
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Swimming


  • Serotonin