Screening and Assays for Neurotransmitters in the Insect Nervous System

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Abstract

Neurons in insects, as in other animal species, communicate with each other and with effector cells, such as gland cells and muscle fibers, mainly by means of chemical messengers (Hildebrand 1982). Chemical transmission of information between cells involves a number of recognized mechanisms including “fast” and “slow” chemical synaptic transmission mediated by neurotransmitter substances, relatively slower and more global transmission mediated by neurohormones, and fine-tuning of the activities of cells and synapses mediated by neuromodulators. These mechanisms share certain attributes: in every case, an appropriately stimulated nerve cell releases from its intracellular stores a chemical messenger (which may comprise one or more substances) that acts through a receptive mechanism in a target (which may be one or more cells) to alter its physiological state. For simplicity it is useful to refer to these chemical messengers, whether synaptic neurotransmitters, neurohormones, or neuromodulators, as transmitters.