Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 343, Issue 2, pp 343–355 | Cite as

Revisiting the anatomy of the central nervous system of a hemimetabolous model insect species: the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum

  • Martin Kollmann
  • Sebastian Minoli
  • Joël Bonhomme
  • Uwe Homberg
  • Joachim Schachtner
  • Denis Tagu
  • Sylvia Anton
Regular Article


Aphids show a marked phenotypic plasticity, producing asexual or sexual and winged or wingless morphs depending on environmental conditions and season. We describe here the general structure of the brain of various morphs of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. This is the first detailed anatomical study of the central nervous system of an aphid by immunocytochemistry (synapsin, serotonin, and several neuropeptides), ethyl-gallate staining, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and three-dimensional reconstructions. The study has revealed well-developed optic lobes composed of lamina, medulla, and lobula complex. Ocelli are only present in males and winged parthenogenetic females. The central complex is well-defined, with a central body divided into two parts, a protocerebral bridge, and affiliated lateral accessory lobes. The mushroom bodies are ill-defined, lacking calyces, and only being visualized by using an antiserum against the neuropeptide orcokinin. The antennal lobes contain poorly delineated glomeruli but can be clearly visualized by performing antennal backfills. On the basis of our detailed description of the brain of winged and wingless parthenogenetic A. pisum females, an anatomical map is now available that should improve our knowledge of the way that these structures are involved in the regulation of phenotypic plasticity.


Insect nervous system Brain Neuropil Phenotypic plasticity Aphids Acyrtophison pisum (Insecta) 







Antennal lobe


Antennal nerve




Central body


Lower division of the central body


Upper division of the central body


Central nervous system




Dorsal lobe










Lateral accessory lobe


Lateral accessory lobe commissure


Lobula dorso-median lobe


Lobula inner lobe


Lobula outer lobe


Lobula complex


Manduca sexta allatotropin


Mushroom body



MeD1 D2

Medulla divisions


Mushroom body median lobe


Normal goat serum


Optic lobe


Protocerebral bridge


Phosphate-buffered saline




Periplaneta americana periviscerokinin II


Room temperature


Subesophageal ganglion


Thoracic ganglionic mass


Triton X




Mushroom body ventral lobe



The authors thank the following colleagues for providing antibodies: Dr. E. Buchner (University of Würzburg, Germany; anti-synapsin I), Dr. J. Veenstra (University of Bordeaux, France; anti-Mas-AT), Dr. M. Eckert (University of Jena, Germany; anti-Pea-PVK-II), Dr. H. Dircksen (University of Stockholm, Sweden; anti-Asn13-OK), and Dr. D. Kalderon (Columbia University, N.Y., USA; anti-DC 0). The authors are also grateful to Cyril Gaertner for technical assistance.

Supplementary material

441_2010_1099_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (880 kb)
Fig. S1 Brain of the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (orientation bar: d dorsal, l lateral, p posterior). Insets top right Position of the depicted brain area. a Single optical section showing synapsin immunostaining of a winged parthenogenetic female. An inner (Loi), outer (Loo), and dorso-median (Lodm) lobe can be distinguished within the lobula complex. b Optical section of a synapsin-immunostained brain of a winged parthenogenetic animal showing the most anterior part of the protocerebral bridge (PB). The two arms of the PB touch each other at the midline of the brain. c Synapsin immunostaining of a wingless parthenogenetic animal showing the upper (CBU) and lower (CBL) divisions of the central body. The border between the two divisions is marked by a layer of highly synapsin-immunoreactive fibers (arrowheads). d Differences in serotonin-immunoreactive profiles between the CBU and CBL of a winged parthenogenetic animal. Whereas the CBU shows strong serotonin immunostaining, the CBL is almost devoid of immunoreactive fibers. e The DC 0 antibody labeled up to four large cell bodies at the dorsal border of the brain in each hemisphere (arrows). Only two cell bodies are visible in this stack of optical sections (maximum intensity projection); they send neurites into the protocerebrum (arrowheads) in a wingless parthenogenetic female. Note that the fibers project into an area dorsal to the CB (stars). Bar 20 μm (PDF 879 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Kollmann
    • 1
  • Sebastian Minoli
    • 2
    • 4
  • Joël Bonhomme
    • 3
  • Uwe Homberg
    • 1
  • Joachim Schachtner
    • 1
  • Denis Tagu
    • 3
  • Sylvia Anton
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology - Animal PhysiologyPhilipps University MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Centre de Recherches de VersaillesINRA, UMR 1272 PISCVersaillesFrance
  3. 3.Domaine de la MotteINRA Rennes, UMR1099 BiO3PLe RheuFrance
  4. 4.Laboratory of Insect Physiology (74b), DBBE, C1428EHAUniversity of Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina

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