The enteric plexus (EP) is a major division of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the moth Manduca sexta and contains a dispersed population of about 360 bipolar neurons, the EP cells. Previously we showed that embryonic EP cells achieve their mature distributions by extensive migration along the gut surface and then display position-specific phenotypes. We now demonstrate that the entire EP cell population is generated from an ectodermal placode that invaginates from the embryonic foregut. Individual EP cells become postmitotic just as they leave the epithelium, but their terminal differentiation is subsequently delayed until after their migratory dispersal. Clonal analysis by injection of lineage-tracing dyes has shown that the EP cell population is derived from a large number of placodal cells, each of which contributes a limited number of neurons to the ENS. Placodally derived clones produce neurons exclusively, while clones arising from cells adjacent to the placode are incorporated into the gut epithelium. These results indicate that neurogenesis in the insect ENS involves a developmental strategy that is distinct from that seen in the insect CNS and which resembles the generation of certain cell classes in the vertebrate nervous system.

This content is only available via PDF.