How to innervate a simple gut: Familiar themes and unique aspects in the formation of the insect enteric nervous system

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25 Scopus citations


Like the vertebrate enteric nervous system (ENS), the insect ENS consists of interconnected ganglia and nerve plexuses that control gut motility. However, the insect ENS lies superficially on the gut musculature, and its component cells can be individually imaged and manipulated within cultured embryos. Enteric neurons and glial precursors arise via epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitions that resemble the generation of neural crest cells and sensory placodes in vertebrates; most cells then migrate extensive distances before differentiating. A balance of proneural and neurogenic genes regulates the morphogenetic programs that produce distinct structures within the insect ENS. In vivo studies have also begun to decipher the mechanisms by which enteric neurons integrate multiple guidance cues to select their pathways. Despite important differences between the ENS of vertebrates and invertebrates, common features in their programs of neurogenesis, migration, and differentiation suggest that these relatively simple preparations may provide insights into similar developmental processes in more complex systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1841-1864
Number of pages24
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007



  • Delamination
  • EMT
  • ENS
  • Epithelial-to- mesenchymal transition
  • Gliogenesis
  • Invagination
  • Migration
  • Neurogenesis
  • Placode
  • Stomatogastric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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