In the insect antennal lobe different types of local interneurons mediate complex excitatory and inhibitory interactions between the glomerular pathways to structure the spatiotemporal representation of odors. Mass spectrometric and immunohistochemical studies have shown that in local interneurons classical neurotransmitters are likely to colocalize with a variety of substances that can potentially act as cotransmitters or neuromodulators. In the antennal lobe of the cockroach Periplaneta americana, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) has been identified as the potential inhibitory transmitter of spiking type I local interneurons, whereas acetylcholine is most likely the excitatory transmitter of nonspiking type IIa1 local interneurons. This study used whole-cell patch clamp recordings combined with single-cell labeling and immunohistochemistry to test if the GABAergic type I local interneurons and the cholinergic type IIa1 local interneurons express allatotropin and tachykinin-related neuropeptides (TKRPs). These are two of the most abundant types of peptides in the insect antennal lobe. GABA-like and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-like immunoreactivity were used as markers for GABAergic and cholinergic neurons, respectively. About 50% of the GABA-like immunoreactive (-lir) spiking type I local interneurons were allatotropin-lir, and ∼ 40% of these neurons were TKRP-lir. About 20% of nonspiking ChAT-lir type IIa1 local interneurons were TKRP-lir. Our results suggest that in subpopulations of GABAergic and cholinergic local interneurons, allatotropin and TKRPs might act as cotransmitters or neuromodulators. To unequivocally assign neurotransmitters, cotransmitters, and neuromodulators to identified classes of antennal lobe neurons is an important step to deepen our understanding of information processing in the insect olfactory system.
An arthropod-specific peptidergic system, the neuropeptide designated here as natalisin and its receptor, was identified and investigated in three holometabolous insect species: Drosophila melanogaster, Tribolium castaneum, and Bombyx mori. In all three species, natalisin expression was observed in 3-4 pairs of the brain neurons: the anterior dorso-lateral interneurons, inferior contralateral interneurons, and small pars intercerebralis neurons. In B. mori, natalisin also was expressed in two additional pairs of contralateral interneurons in the subesophageal ganglion. Natalisin-RNAi and the activation or silencing of the neural activities in the natalisin-specific cells in D. melanogaster induced significant defects in the mating behaviors of both males and females. Knockdown of natalisin expression in T. castaneum resulted in significant reduction in the fecundity. The similarity of the natalisin C-terminal motifs to those of vertebrate tachykinins and of tachykinin-related peptides in arthropods led us to identify the natalisin receptor. A G protein-coupled receptor, previously known as tachykinin receptor 86C (also known as the neurokinin K receptor of D. melanogaster), now has been recognized as a bona fide natalisin receptor. Taken together, the taxonomic distribution pattern of the natalisin gene and the phylogeny of the receptor suggest that natalisin is an ancestral sibling of tachykinin that evolved only in the arthropod lineage.