Distribution and developmental expression of octopamine‐immunoreactive neurons in the central nervous system of the leech

Laura S. Gilchrist, Kathleen A. Klukas, John Jellies, Jürgen Rapus, Manfred Eckert, Karen A. Mesce

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28 Scopus citations


Octopamine, a biogenic amine analogous to norepinephrine, plays an important role in the orchestration and modulation of invertebrate behavior. In the leech, the behavioral actions of octopamine have been demonstrated; however, identification of octopaminergic neurons had not been determined by using immunohistochemical techniques. Thus, we used an antibody highly specific to octopamine to examine the distribution of octopamine‐immunoreactive neurons in the segmental ganglia of American and European medicinal leeches (Macrobdella decora and Hirudo medicinalis). One pair of octopamine‐immunoreactive neurons was located in the dorsolateral ganglionic region of anterior ganglia 1–6 and posterior ganglia 15–21. No corresponding octopamine‐immunoreactive neurons were found in midbody ganglia 7–14. Using Neutral Red staining in combination with intracellular Neurobiotin injections and octopamine immunostaining, we determined the identity of the dorsolateral octopamineimmunoreactive cells. The dorsolateral octopamine‐immunoreactive neuron (the DLO) was not cell 21, the only previously reported Neutral Red staining neuron in the dorsolateral position. We also determined that the Leydig neuron was not octopamine immunoreactive in either of the two medicinal leech species. Octopamine immunostaining in the sex ganglia revealed hundreds of immunoreactive neurons in sexually mature leeches. Such neurons were not observed in juvenile leeches. The developmental time course of octopamine immunoreactivity in the dorsolateral octopamine‐immunoreactive neurons was also investigated by staining embryonic Hirudo medicinalis, Octopamine expression occurred relatively late as compared with the detectable onset of serotonin expression. Octopamine expression in the dorsolateral octopamine‐immunoreactive cells was not detectable at early to mid‐embryonic stages, and must commence during late embryonic to early juvenile stages. The identification of octopamineimmunoreactive cells now sets the stage for further investigations into the functional role of octopamine in leech behavior and the development of behavior. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-463
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 13 1995


  • Hirudo medicinalis
  • Macrobdella decora
  • biogenic amines
  • confocal microscopy
  • neurodevelopment


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