Development of the enteric nervous system in the moth. I. Diversity of cell types and the embryonic expression of FMRFamide-related neuropeptides

Philip F. Copenhaver, Paul H. Taghert

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65 Scopus citations


The enteric nervous system (ENS) of the larval moth Manduca sexta consists of two small ganglia and several nerve networks that lie superficially along the alimentary tract. Within this system are approximately 600 neurons that exhibit a spectrum of biochemical and morphological characteristics and that express these features in a definable sequence during development. The accessibility of both the neural and nonneural components of the moth ENS throughout embryogenesis makes it a potentially useful model in which to examine the developmental regulation of transmitter phenotype. In this paper, we have focused on the differentiation of the enteric plexus (EP) cells, a heterogeneous population of enteric neurons that are distributed across the foregut-midgut boundary. Unlike many neurons of the CNS in insects, the cells of the enteric plexus are not uniquely identifiable. While the total number of EP cells is constant, their locations vary significantly from animal to animal. However, several distinct classes of neurons can be identified within this population on the basis of morphology and transmitter phenotype, including one class that contains substances related to the molluscan peptide Phe-Met-Arg-Phe-amide (FMRFamide). Expression of this FMRFamide-like material within the enteric plexus is position-specific, occurring only in neurons on the midgut and not in those on the foregut. FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity first appears in approximately one-third of these cells at 65% of development; this pattern is retained without apparent modification throughout subsequent embryonic and postembryonic development. In the following paper, we describe the sequence of stereotyped cell migration that precedes the expression of this peptidergic phenotype and that underlies the formation of the enteric plexus during embryogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-84
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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