, Volume 217, Issue 8, pp 569-584
Date: 05 Jul 2007

Neurobiology of the basal platyhelminth Macrostomum lignano : map and digital 3D model of the juvenile brain neuropile

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We have analyzed brain structure in Macrostomum lignano, a representative of the basal platyhelminth taxon Macrostomida. Using confocal microscopy and digital 3D modeling software on specimens labeled with general markers for neurons (tyrTub), muscles (phalloidin), and nuclei (Sytox), an atlas and digital model of the juvenile Macrostomum brain was generated. The brain forms a ganglion with a central neuropile surrounded by a cortex of neuronal cell bodies. The neuropile contains a stereotypical array of compact axon bundles, as well as branched terminal axons and dendrites. Muscle fibers penetrate the flatworm brain horizontally and vertically at invariant positions. Beside the invariant pattern of neurite bundles, these “cerebral muscles” represent a convenient system of landmarks that help define discrete compartments in the juvenile brain. Commissural axon bundles define a dorsal and ventro-medial neuropile compartment, respectively. Longitudinal axons that enter the neuropile through an invariant set of anterior and posterior nerve roots define a ventro-basal and a central medial compartment in the neuropile. Flanking these “fibrous” compartments are neuropile domains that lack thick axon bundles and are composed of short collaterals and terminal arborizations of neurites. Two populations of neurons, visualized by antibodies against FMRFamide and serotonin, respectively, were mapped relative to compartment boundaries. This study will aid in the documentation and interpretation of patterns of gene expression, as well as functional studies, in the developing Macrostomum brain.