The distribution and chemical neuroanatomy of nervous elements and certain pharmacological-physiological characteristics of the innervation of the body wall in earthworms are described. Solitary sensory bipolar cells can be found among the epithelial cells. These bipolar cells contain serotonin, tyrosine hydroxylase, histamine, gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA), Eisenia tetradecapeptide, proctolin or rhodopsin in various combinations. In the body wall, the plexus submuscularis is composed of nerve fibres only, whereas the plexus subepithelialis and muscularis also contain solitary nerve cells. These cells display histamine, GABA or neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity. The fibres of the three plexuses are reactive to serotonin, histamine, Eisenia tetradecapeptide, proctolin, GABA and neuropeptide Y antibodies. FMRFamide-immunoreactive fibres of the plexus muscularis originate from the central nervous system, whereas axons containing the other studied molecules are derived from both peripheral and central structures. High pressure liquid chromatography assays have revealed serotonin, dopamine and histamine in the body wall. Contractions of the body wall musculature can be elicited with serotonin and FMRFamide. Serotonin-evoked contractions are suppressed by the application of GABA. Serotonin acts both directly on the muscle cell receptors and indirectly through initiating transmitter release from the nervous elements, whereas the FMRFamide-induced contractions seem to be mediated through the muscle cell receptors only. The pharmacological profiles of the serotonin and GABA receptors resemble those of the vertebrate 5-HT3 and GABA B receptor types. Our findings indicate that both the sensory and efferent system of the annelid body wall operate by means of a variety of neuroactive compounds, suggesting a complex role of signalling systems in the regulation of this organ.
- Body wall
- Earthworms: Lumbricus terrestris, Eisenia fetida (Annelida)
- High pressure liquid chromatography
- Sensory cells