Central origin of the efferent neurons projecting to the eyes of Limulus polyphemus

Vis Neurosci. 1991 May;6(5):481-95. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800001334.


Circadian rhythms affect the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of the visual cells in the eyes of the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). These rhythms are mediated by the activity of efferent neurons that project from the central nervous system to all of the eyes. In this study, the optic nerves of Limulus were backfilled with Neurobiotin revealing the location of efferent cell bodies and their projections through the central nervous system. We propose that this efferent system mediates the circadian changes in visual functions in Limulus. Whether these cells are the circadian pacemaker neurons is unknown. The cell bodies of the efferent neurons are ovoid and have a diameter of 40-80 microns. They lie within the cheliceral ganglion of the tritocerebrum, just posterior to the protocerebrum. This ganglion is on the lateral edge of the circumesophageal ring, near the middle of the dorsal-ventral axis of the ring. Each optic nerve contains axons from both ipsilateral and contralateral efferent cells, and some, possibly all, of them project bilaterally and to more than one type of optic nerve. The efferent axons form a tract that projects anteriorly from the cell bodies to the protocerebrum, and bifurcates just lateral to the protocerebral bridge. One branch crosses the midline and projects anteriorly to the optic tract and medulla on the side contralateral to the cell of origin; the other branch follows a symmetric pathway on the ipsilateral side. Small branches arising from the major efferent axons in the optic tract project through the ocellar ganglia to the median optic nerves. The efferent axons branch again in the medulla, and some of these branches innervate the ventral optic nerves. The major branches of the efferent axons continue through the lamina and enter the lateral optic nerve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Efferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Horseshoe Crabs
  • Neurons, Efferent / cytology*
  • Optic Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology