In planula larvae of the invertebrate Hydractinia echinata (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa), peptides of the GLWamide and the RFamide families are expressed in distinct subpopulations of neurons, distributed in a typical spatial pattern through the larval body. However, in the adult polyp GLWamide or RFamide-expressing cells are located at body parts that do not correspond to the prior larval regions. Since we had shown previously that during metamorphosis a large number of cells are removed by programmed cell death (PCD), we aimed to analyze whether cells of the neuropeptide-expressing larval nerve net are among those sacrificed. By immunohistochemical staining and in situ hybridization, we labeled GLWamide- and RFamide-expressing cells. Double staining of neuropeptides and degraded DNA (TUNEL analysis) identified some neurosensory cells as being apoptotic. Derangement of the cytoplasm and rapid destruction of neuropeptide precursor RNA indicated complete death of these particular sensory cells in the course of metamorphosis. Additionally, a small group of RFamide-positive sensory cells in the developing mouth region of the primary polyp could be shown to emerge by proliferation. Our results support the idea that during metamorphosis, specific parts of the larval neuronal network are subject to neurodegeneration and therefore not used for construction of the adult nerve net. Most neuronal cells of the primary polyp arise by de novo differentiation of stem cells commited to neural differentiation in embryogenesis. At least some nerve cells derive from proliferation of progenitor cells. Clarification of how the nerve net of these basal eumetazoans degenerates may add information to the understanding of neurodegeneration by apoptosis as a whole in the animal kingdom.
- Ganglionic cells
- Neurosensory cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience