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PloS one

The 'ventral organs' of Pycnogonida (Arthropoda) are neurogenic niches of late embryonic and post-embryonic nervous system development.


PMID 24736377

Abstract

Early neurogenesis in arthropods has been in the focus of numerous studies, its cellular basis, spatio-temporal dynamics and underlying genetic network being by now comparably well characterized for representatives of chelicerates, myriapods, hexapods and crustaceans. By contrast, neurogenesis during late embryonic and/or post-embryonic development has received less attention, especially in myriapods and chelicerates. Here, we apply (i) immunolabeling, (ii) histology and (iii) scanning electron microscopy to study post-embryonic ventral nerve cord development in Pseudopallene sp., a representative of the sea spiders (Pycnogonida), the presumable sister group of the remaining chelicerates. During early post-embryonic development, large neural stem cells give rise to additional ganglion cell material in segmentally paired invaginations in the ventral ectoderm. These ectodermal cell regions - traditionally designated as 'ventral organs' - detach from the surface into the interior and persist as apical cell clusters on the ventral ganglion side. Each cluster is a post-embryonic neurogenic niche that features a tiny central cavity and initially still houses larger neural stem cells. The cluster stays connected to the underlying ganglionic somata cortex via an anterior and a posterior cell stream. Cell proliferation remains restricted to the cluster and streams, and migration of newly produced cells along the streams seems to account for increasing ganglion cell numbers in the cortex. The pycnogonid cluster-stream-systems show striking similarities to the life-long neurogenic system of decapod crustaceans, and due to their close vicinity to glomerulus-like neuropils, we consider their possible involvement in post-embryonic (perhaps even adult) replenishment of olfactory neurons - as in decapods. An instance of a potentially similar post-embryonic/adult neurogenic system in the arthropod outgroup Onychophora is discussed. Additionally, we document two transient posterior ganglia in the ventral nerve cord of Pseudopallene sp. and evaluate this finding in light of the often discussed reduction of a segmented 'opisthosoma' during pycnogonid evolution.