Nature and nurture in development of the autonomic neuron

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Science  31 Mar 1978:
Vol. 199, Issue 4336, pp. 1409-1416
DOI: 10.1126/science.24273


Arguments are presented for the hypothesis that during an early stage of development the cells which become principal neurons of the autonomic nervous system possess information regarding the positions they will occupy within the body. A second stage of development, during which a decision is made regarding which neurotransmitter to employ, is delayed until each neuron has assumed its permanent position in the body and has sampled, presumably via its growing axons, the peripheral field which it will innervate. The development of cholinergic mechanisms takes precedence; adrenergic neurons may develop only when cholinergic sites have been occupied. An extended period during which the differentiation of transmitter mechanisms may be modulated permits the neuron to adequately sample the periphery prior to commitment to a specific transmitter economy.