Most insects are equipped with specialized thermo- and hygroreceptors to locate a permissible range of ambient temperature and distant water sources, respectively. In the cockroach, Periplaneta americana, cold, moist, and dry receptor cells in the antennae send axons to particular sets of two or three glomeruli in the dorsocentral part of the antennal lobe (primary olfactory center), designated DC1-3 glomeruli. However, it is not known how thermo- and hygrosensory signals from these glomeruli are represented in higher-order centers, the protocerebrum, in any insect species. With the use of intracellular recording and staining techniques, we identified a new class of interneurons with dendrites almost exclusively in the DC1, DC2, or DC3 glomeruli and axons projecting to the protocerebrum in the cockroach. Remarkably, terminals of all these projection neurons (PNs) covered almost identical areas in the lateral protocerebrum (LP), although their termination areas outside the LP differed from neuron to neuron. The termination areas within the LP were distinct from, but close to, those of uniglomerular and macroglomerular PNs that transmitted signals concerning general odors and female sex pheromones, respectively. PNs originating from DC1, DC2, and DC3 glomeruli exhibited excitatory responses to cold, moist, and dry stimuli, respectively, probably due to excitatory synaptic input from cold, moist, and dry receptor cells, respectively, whereas their responses were often modulated by olfactory stimuli. These findings suggested that dorsocentral PNs participate in neural pathways that lead to behavioral responses to temperature or humidity changes.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.