Anatomical Organization of Antennal Lobe Projection Neurons in the MothHeliothis virescens

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A prerequisite for understanding how odor information is coded in the central nervous system is to know the morphology and spatial relationship of the principal neurons forming the olfactory pathways. The present account provides an anatomical description of the morphology of the neuronal connections between the antennal lobe and the protocerebrum in the moth Heliothis virescens, a species used for studies of olfactory processing and learning. Intracellular labeling and antennal lobe focal injections with dextran fluorescent markers were combined with neuropil immunostaining and three-dimensional reconstructions. The experiments revealed four antennocerebral tracts, the inner, middle, outer, and dorsomedial, and eight morphological types of projection neurons in addition to a neuron with an unpaired median soma in the subesophageal ganglion. Multiglomerular projection neurons, present in all but the dorsomedial antennocerebral tract, project in several olfactory foci of the protocerebral neuropil. With few exceptions, these neurons do not innervate the calyces of the mushroom body. Uniglomerular projection neurons appear most numerous in the inner antennocerebral tract but are also present in the outer and dorsomedial tracts. These neurons always ramify in the calyces of the mushroom body and in the lateral horn. The projection areas of the neurons following different tracts are largely separated in the secondary olfactory centers. This is most evident in the lateral horn, whereas, in the calyces, the axonal ramifications are more intermingled. The mushroom body architecture, revealed by neuropil immunolabeling, showed striking similarities to that of other lepidopteran species as well as insects of other taxa. J. Comp. Neurol. 500:658–675, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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