Development of the nervous system in Solenogastres (Mollusca) reveals putative ancestral spiralian features.

PMID 25904999


The Solenogastres (or Neomeniomorpha) are a taxon of aplacophoran molluscs with contentious phylogenetic placement. Since available developmental data on non-conchiferan (that is, aculiferan) molluscs mainly stem from polyplacophorans, data on aplacophorans are needed to clarify evolutionary questions concerning the morphological features of the last common ancestor (LCA) of the Aculifera and the entire Mollusca. We therefore investigated the development of the nervous system in two solenogasters, Wirenia argentea and Gymnomenia pellucida, using immunocytochemistry and electron microscopy. Nervous system formation starts simultaneously from the apical and abapical pole of the larva with the development of a few cells of the apical organ and a posterior neurogenic domain. A pair of neurite bundles grows out from both the neuropil of the apical organ and the posterior neurogenic domain. After their fusion in the region of the prototroch, which is innervated by an underlying serotonin-like immunoreactive (-LIR) plexus, the larva exhibits two longitudinal neurite bundles - the future lateral nerve cords. The apical organ in its fully developed state exhibits approximately 8 to 10 flask-shaped cells but no peripheral cells. The entire ventral nervous system, which includes a pair of longitudinal neurite bundles (the future ventral nerve cords) and a serotonin-LIR ventromedian nerve plexus, appears simultaneously and is established after the lateral nervous system. During metamorphosis the apical organ and the prototrochal nerve plexus are lost. The development of the nervous system in early solenogaster larvae shows striking similarities to other spiralians, especially polychaetes, in exhibiting an apical organ with flask-shaped cells, a single pair of longitudinal neurite bundles, a serotonin-LIR innervation of the prototroch, and formation of these structures from an anterior and a posterior neurogenic domain. This provides evidence for an ancestral spiralian pattern of early nervous system development and a LCA of the Spiralia with a single pair of nerve cords. In later nervous system development, however, the annelids deviate from all other spiralians including solenogasters in forming a posterior growth zone, which initiates teloblastic growth. Since this mode of organogenesis is confined to annelids, we conclude that the LCA of both molluscs and spiralians was unsegmented.

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