The intercellular junctional complexes in the central nervous system (CNS) from a variety of insect species have been examined by thin-sectioning and freeze-fracturing techniques. Of particular concern has been the fine-structural basis of the blood-brain barrier observed to be present in the outer perineurial layer around the avascular insect CNS. The basis of this has been found in the form of tight junctions (zonulae occludentes) present both in sections and in replicas of the perineurium. In the latter, they appear as one or two simple linear ridges, lying parallel to the outer surface, which occasionally display overlapping. The complex geometry of the interdigitating perineurial cells apparently permits such a relatively simple series of ridges to function as a barrier, since tracers are found not to penetrate beyond this level into the underlying nervous tissue. Such evidence is supported by microprobe X-ray analysis of lanthanum-incubated tissues, the perineurium compared with the glia-ensheathed axons showing the presence and absence of lanthanum, respectively. Possible physiological mechanisms that could operate ‘in vitro’ to maintain the blood-brain barrier are also considered. Other intercellular junctions such as desmosomes, septate junctions and gap junctions are found in the perineurial layer too, the last exhibiting EF particle plaques and PF pits. Glia-glia junctions also occur in some insect species; they include desmosomes, inverted gap junctions and occasional tight junctions. Septate, gap and tight junctions are also found on the membranes of tracheoles penetrating the CNS. Short, ridge-like elaborations and other particle arrays are found on the PF on the axon surfaces and the significance of these structures is discussed.

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