Formation of the transverse nerve in moth embryos. II. Stereotyped growth by the axons of identified neuroendocrine neurons

Jeffrey N. Carr, Paul H. Taghert

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20 Scopus citations


We are interested in the cellular mechanisms that guide neuroendocrine axons to their neurohaemal target regions and that regulate the extent and positioning of their terminal arbor. The neurohaemal organ we have studied is the segmentally repeated transverse nerve of the moth Manduca. In the mature animal, two motor neurons and a heterogeneous set of identified neuroendocrine neurons project to this nerve; the latter release hormonal peptides from along its length. In the preceding report, we demonstrated that during embryogenesis, the position, trajectory and extent of the transverse nerve are anticipated by two sets of nonneuronal cells, the strap and the bridge. In this paper we show that four identified neuroendocrine neurons (L1 and B1-3), like the identified motor neurons before them, elaborate growth cones that use this preexisting scaffolding as a substrate for axonal elongation. Moreover, growth cone navigation by these neuroendocrine neurons is as precise and invariant as that displayed by the motor neurons. One feature that differentiates the behavior of the developing neuroendocrine cells from that of the motor neurons is a stereotyped interaction that the L1 and B1-3 axons undergo with an identified syncytial cell that lies in close proximity to the strap. Each neuroendocrine neuron specifically adheres to the syncytium by extending numerous filopodia, and an occasional large lamellopodium, over its surface. These contacts are maintained by the neuroendocrine axons after their growth cones have left the vicinity of the syncytium and proceeded into the strap/bridge complex. Adhesion to the syncytium is transient and specific to the neuroendocrine neurons: although motor neuron axons are present at this same time and place, they display no affinity for the syncytium. This distinction correlates with the fact that the neuroendocrine neurons go on to elaborate arbor within the confines of the transverse nerve, while the motor neurons do not. We suggest that the syncytium may act as a "fictive target" for these neurons to aid in the differentiation of features that are specific to their cellular phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-512
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1988


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