Axon outgrowth along segmental nerves in the leech. II. Identification of actual guidance cells.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Developmental biology, Volume 132, Number 2, p.486–501 (1989)



Animals, Axons, Axons: physiology, Axons: ultrastructure, Bisbenzimidazole, Dextrans, Fluoresceins, Fluorescence, Fluorescent Dyes, Histocytochemistry, Lasers, Leeches, Leeches: embryology, Lysine, Lysine: analogs & derivatives, Microscopy, Nervous System, Nervous System: embryology, Nervous System: ultrastructure, Neurons, Neurons: physiology, Neurons: radiation effects, Neurons: ultrastructure, Rhodamines, Staining and Labeling


Some peripheral neurons, previously identified as candidate guidance cells for axonal outgrowth along the segmental nerves in embryos of the glossiphoniid leech Helobdella triserialis, were photoablated by laser illumination to ascertain whether their presence is necessary for generation of the normal axonal growth pattern. These experiments showed that focal photoablation of peripheral neurons nz3 or pz8 prevents normal axonal outgrowth along the ultraposterior nerve path or along the distal sector of the medial-anterior nerve path, respectively, in conformance with the inference that these two neurons do function as guidance cells. However, ablation of these neurons affects axon outgrowth only if the neurons are illuminated prior to the end of a sensitive period in segmental development. By contrast, photoablation of previously identified candidate guidance cells situated on the anterior-anterior and posterior-posterior nerve paths, among them peripheral neurons nz1, nz2, oz1, oz2, pz6, and LD1, does not prevent normal axonal outgrowth. It is possible that the guidance role, if any, of these neurons is facultative rather than necessary, since each of the several neurons that lies on either of these nerve paths may provide an alternative axon guidance cue.