Background: The structure and development of the nervous system in Lophotrochozoa has long been recognized as one of the most important subjects for phylogenetic and evolutionary discussion. Many recent papers have presented comprehensive data on the structure and development of catecholaminergic, serotonergic and FMRFamidergic parts of the nervous system. However, relatively few papers contain detailed descriptions of the nervous system in Annelida, one of the largest taxa of Lophotrochozoa. The polychaete species Platynereis dumerilii has recently become one of the more popular model animals in evolutionary and developmental biology. The goal of the present study was to provide a detailed description of its neuronal development. The data obtained will contribute to a better understanding of the basic features of neuronal development in polychaetes.
Results: We have studied the development of the nervous system in P. dumerilii utilizing histo- and immunochemical labelling of catecholamines, serotonin, FMRFamide related peptides, and acetylated tubulin. The first neuron differentiates at the posterior extremity of the protrochophore, reacts to the antibodies against both serotonin and FMRFamide. Then its fibres run forwards along the ventral side. Soon, more neurons appear at the apical extreme, and their basal neurites form the basel structure of the developing brain (cerebral neuropil and circumesophageal connectives). Initial development of the nervous system starts in two rudiments: anterior and posterior. At the nectochaete stage, segmental ganglia start to differentiate in the anterior-to-posterior direction, and the first structures of the stomatogastric and peripheral nervous system appear. All connectives including the unpaired ventral cord develop from initially paired nerves.
Conclusions: We present a detailed description of Platynereis dumerilii neuronal development based on anti-acetylated tubulin, serotonin, and FMRFamide-like immunostaining as well as catecholamine histofluorescence. The development of the nervous system starts from peripheral pioneer neurons at both the posterior and anterior poles of the larva, and their neurites form a scaffold upon which the adult central nervous system develops. The anterior-to-posterior mode of the ventral ganglia development challenges the primary heteronomy concept. Comparison with the development of Mollusca reveals substantial similarities with early neuronal development in larval Solenogastres.
Keywords: Annelida; Confocal microscopy; FMRFamide; Neuronal development; Platynereis dumerilii; Serotonin; Trochophora; Tubulin.