The enteric nervous system (ENS) of the locust consists of four ganglia (frontal and hypocerebral ganglion, and the paired ingluvial ganglia) located on the foregut, and nerve plexus innervating fore- and midgut. One of the major neurotransmitters of the ENS, serotonin, is known to play a vital role in gut motility and feeding. We followed the anatomy of the serotonergic system throughout embryonic development. Serotonergic neurons are generated in the anterior neurogenic zones of the foregut and migrate rostrally along the developing recurrent nerve to contribute to the frontal ganglion. They grow descending neurites, which arborize in all enteric ganglia and both nerve plexus. On the midgut, the neurites closely follow the leading migrating midgut neurons. The onset of serotonin synthesis occurs around halfway through development-the time of the beginning of midgut closure. Cells developing to serotonergic phenotype express the serotonin uptake transporter (SERT) significantly earlier, beginning at 40% of development. The neurons begin SERT expression during migration along the recurrent nerve, indicating that they are committed to a serotonergic phenotype before reaching their final destination. After completion of the layout of the enteric ganglia (at 60%) a maturational phase follows, during which serotonin-immunoreactive cell bodies increase in size and the fine arborizations in the nerve plexus develop varicosities, putative sites of serotonin release (at 80%). This study provides the initial step for future investigation of potential morphoregulatory functions of serotonin during ENS development.
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