The pharynx of Caenorhabditis elegans

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1976 Aug 10;275(938):299-325. doi: 10.1098/rstb.1976.0085.


The anatomy of the pharynx of Caenorhabditis elegans has been reconstructed from electron micrographs of serial sections. The pharynx is used for pumping food into the gut, and is composed of 34 muscle cells, 9 marginal cells, 9 epithelial cells, 5 gland cells and 20 neurones. Three regions of specialization in the cuticle lining of the pharyngeal lumen may aid in the accumulation of food particles. A basement membrane isolates the pharynx from the rest of the animal, making the pharyngeal nervous system a nearly self-contained unit which is composed primarily of five classes of motor neurones and six classes of interneurones. Three other classes have also been described, which by their morphology appear to be neurosecretory and motor, motor and interneuronal, and lastly one pair that only innervates three of the marginal cells. Some classes of neurone have free endings just under the cuticle lining the lumen of the pharynx, suggesting that these are mechano- or proprio-receptive endings. The connectivity of these neurones has been described at the level of individual synaptic regions, and after combining this information with video taped observations of the pharynx pumping, some interpretations of how these neurones function have been offered.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / cytology
  • Nematoda / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neurosecretory Systems / cytology
  • Pharynx / anatomy & histology
  • Pharynx / innervation
  • Pharynx / ultrastructure