Axon outgrowth along segmental nerves in the leech. I. Identification of candidate guidance cells.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Developmental biology, Volume 132, Number 2, p.471–85 (1989)



Animals, Axons, Axons: physiology, Axons: ultrastructure, Blastomeres, Blastomeres: cytology, Cell Movement, Epidermis, Epidermis: cytology, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Leeches, Leeches: embryology, Morphogenesis, Muscles, Muscles: embryology, Nervous System, Nervous System: embryology, Nervous System: ultrastructure, Neurons, Neurons: ultrastructure, Time Factors


We studied the development of the major extraganglionic components of the germinal plate in embryos of the glossiphoniid leech Helobdella triserialis to improve our understanding of the mechanism of segmental nerve formation. We examined the outgrowth of groups of axons from ganglionic neurons into the segmental nerves, the migration of peripheral neurons and epidermal specializations to their definitive sites, and the development of circular and longitudinal muscle fibers. We visualized axons, as well as neurons and epidermal specializations, by means of fluorescent cell lineage tracers injected earlier into blastomeres and muscle fibers by means of immunofluorescence. The development of cells in all groups was found to follow a stereotyped pattern. Axons of ganglionic neurons approach some identified peripheral neurons located along the segmental nerve paths but not, in general, epidermal specializations and muscle fibers. Near the somata of a subset of peripheral neurons they approach, axons cease or interrupt their growth. These findings identify a set of candidate guidance cells for axonal outgrowth in the leech, similar to those previously described in the developing nervous system of insects.