Target-dependent differentiation and development of molluscan neurons and neuroendocrine cells: using parasitation as a tool.

R.P.J. de Lange, C.M. Moorer-van Delft, P.A.C.M. de Boer, J. van Minnen, M. de Jong-Brink

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Specimens of the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis infected with the schistosome parasite Trichobilharzia ocellata show a strongly inhibited development of their reproductive tract. We hypothesised that the effects of the underdevelopment of targets are reflected at the level of the neuronal development of (i) the motor neurons innervating the male copulation organ and (ii) neuroendocrine cells regulating the gonad. We determined the state of neuronal development by measuring cell number, cell size and neuropeptide gene expression. Our results show that the neuronal development of both copulation controlling anterior lobe motor neurons of the right cerebral ganglion and neuroendocrine caudodorsal cells, which produce neuropeptides regulating ovulation, egg laying and accompanying behaviour, are affected in parasitised animals in which their respective target organs were not developed. The cell bodies were smaller and fewer cells were found to express neuropeptide genes compared to those in non-parasitised animals. These effects were not observed in the appropriate controls. Backfills and lesions of the penis nerve have shown that the inhibited development of central motor neurons in parasitised snails is target dependent; neighbouring neurons that have no connection with the male copulation organ are not affected. Our data suggest that this effect is established by target-derived neurotrophic factors that need this connection for being transported to the innervating motor neurons. We propose that the effect on the neuroendocrine caudodorsal cells is mediated by a humoral factor, since they have no known connection with their target. We have shown that the size and gene expression of motor neurons controlling copulation behaviour in the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis are related to the size of their target, the copulation organ, and depend on the connection with this target. © 2001 IBRO.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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