In situ hybridization to study the origin and fate of identified neurons

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Science  18 Nov 1983:
Vol. 222, Issue 4625, pp. 800-808
DOI: 10.1126/science.6356362


Egg-laying behavior in Aplysia is mediated by a set of peptides, including egg-laying hormone (ELH), which are released by a cluster of identified neurons, the bag cells. A family of neuropeptide genes which includes the gene encoding ELH along with two additional genes encoding the A and B peptides thought to initiate the egg-laying process has been isolated and their nucleotide sequence has been determined. In situ hybridization and immunofluorescence was used to explore the origin and distribution of the neurons that express this family of genes. The ELH genes are expressed, not only in the bag cells, but in an extensive system of neurons distributed in four of the five ganglia of the central nervous system. The genes for ELH are expressed in these cells early in the animal's life cycle. As a result, it was possible to use in situ hybridization to trace the cells expressing ELH to their site of origin. The cells originate outside the central nervous system in the ectoderm of the body wall and appear to migrate to their final locations within the central nervous system by crawling along strands of connective tissue.