Postembryonic alteration of transmitter phenotype in individually identified peptidergic neurons

N. J. Tublitz, A. W. Sylwester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Many neurons are now known to undergo dramatic morphological or biochemical changes long after they have completed differentiation and maturation. The ability of fully mature neurons to alter their transmitter phenotype has been amply demonstrated in culture, but direct in vivo data on single neurons have been difficult to obtain. Here we show that a set of 4 individually identified neurosecretory neurons in the moth Manduca sexta, previously demonstrated to contain the peptide hormone bursicon, also stain with a monoclonal antibody directed against 2 insect cardioacceleratory peptides (CAPs). These lateral cells exhibit CAP-like immunoreactivity in larvae but not in pupae or adults, in contrast to other CAP-containing neurons which are strongly immunoreactive in all postembryonic stages. Biochemical analyses using high-pressure liquid chromatography confirm that the lateral neurons in larvae contain CAP2, one of the CAPs. CAP measurements of cell clusters containing these cells indicate high levels only in caterpillars. When the same neurosecretory cells are individually dissected and assayed for CAP bioactivity, high CAP levels are again found in larvae, whereas the same neurons in pupae show no much CAP bioactivity. Simultaneous determinations of both bursicon and CAP levels in single lateral cells indicate that these cells express high levels of CAP activity and low amounts of bursicon in larvae yet are solely bursicon-containing in pupae and adults. Thus, by demonstrating that these cells alter their secretory profile in vivo during metamorphosis, our results confirm the notion that functionally mature neurons are capable of altering their transmitter expression after the completion of embryonic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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