Neuroarchitecture of peptidergic systems in the larval ventral ganglion of Drosophila melanogaster

PLoS One. 2007 Aug 1;2(8):e695. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000695.


Recent studies on Drosophila melanogaster and other insects have revealed important insights into the functions and evolution of neuropeptide signaling. In contrast, in- and output connections of insect peptidergic circuits are largely unexplored. Existing morphological descriptions typically do not determine the exact spatial location of peptidergic axonal pathways and arborizations within the neuropil, and do not identify peptidergic in- and output compartments. Such information is however fundamental to screen for possible peptidergic network connections, a prerequisite to understand how the CNS controls the activity of peptidergic neurons at the synaptic level. We provide a precise 3D morphological description of peptidergic neurons in the thoracic and abdominal neuromeres of the Drosophila larva based on fasciclin-2 (Fas2) immunopositive tracts as landmarks. Comparing the Fas2 "coordinates" of projections of sensory or other neurons with those of peptidergic neurons, it is possible to identify candidate in- and output connections of specific peptidergic systems. These connections can subsequently be more rigorously tested. By immunolabeling and GAL4-directed expression of marker proteins, we analyzed the projections and compartmentalization of neurons expressing 12 different peptide genes, encoding approximately 75% of the neuropeptides chemically identified within the Drosophila CNS. Results are assembled into standardized plates which provide a guide to identify candidate afferent or target neurons with overlapping projections. In general, we found that putative dendritic compartments of peptidergic neurons are concentrated around the median Fas2 tracts and the terminal plexus. Putative peptide release sites in the ventral nerve cord were also more laterally situated. Our results suggest that i) peptidergic neurons in the Drosophila ventral nerve cord have separated in- and output compartments in specific areas, and ii) volume transmission is a prevailing way of peptidergic communication within the CNS. The data can further be useful to identify colocalized transmitters and receptors, and develop peptidergic neurons as new landmarks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Patterning
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / anatomy & histology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Larva* / anatomy & histology
  • Larva* / metabolism
  • Nerve Net* / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net* / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Protein Precursors / genetics
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Neuropeptides
  • Protein Precursors
  • fasciclin II