, Volume 127, Issue 4, pp 227-239
Date: 02 Jul 2008

Comparative immunohistochemistry of the cephalic sensory organs in Opisthobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda)

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The structure and function of the central nervous systems of opisthobranch gastropods have been studied extensively. However, the organisation and function of the peripheral nervous system are poorly understood. The cephalic sensory organs (CSOs) are known to be chemosensory structures in the head region of opisthobranchs. In the present study, we used immunohistochemical methods and confocal laserscanning microscopy to comparatively examine the CSOs of different opisthobranchs, namely Acteon tornatilis, Aplysia punctata, Archidoris pseudoargus and Haminoea hydatis. We wanted to characterise sensory epithelia in order to infer the function of sensory structures and the organs they constitute. Immunoreactivity against the three antigens tyrosine hydroxylase, FMRFamide and serotonin was very similar in the CSOs of all investigated species. Tyrosine hydroxylase-like immunoreactivity was detected primarily in subepidermal sensory cell bodies, which were much more abundant in the anteriorly situated CSOs. This observation indicates that these cells and the respective organs may be involved in contact chemoreception and mechanoreception. The dominant features of FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity, especially in the posterior CSOs, were tightly knotted fibres which reveal glomerulus-like structures. This suggests an olfactory role for these organs. Serotonin-like immunoreactivity was detected in an extensive network of efferent fibres, but was not found within any peripheral cell bodies. Serotonin-like immunoreactivity was found in the same glomerulus-like structures as FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity, indicating a function of serotonin in the efferent control of olfactory inputs. Besides this functional implication, this study could also add some knowledge on the doubtful homology of the CSOs in opisthobranch gastropods.