During metamorphosis of the moth, Manduca sexta, an identified leg motor neuron, the femoral extensor motor neuron (FeExt MN) undergoes dramatic reorganization. Larval dendrites occupy two distinct regions of neuropil, one in the lateral leg neuropil and a second in dorsomedial neuropil. Adult dendrites occupy a greater volume of lateral leg neuropil but do not extend to the dorsomedial region of the ganglion. The adult dendritic morphology is acquired by extreme dendritic regression followed by extensive dendritic growth. Towards the end of larval life, MN dendrites begin to regress, but the most dramatic loss of dendrites occurs in the 3 days following pupation, such that only a few sparse dendrites are retained in the lateral region of leg neuropil. Extensive dendritic growth occurs over the subsequent days such that the MN acquires an adult-like morphology between 12 and 14 days after pupation. This basic process of dendritic remodeling is not dependent upon the presence of the adult leg, suggesting that neither contact with the new target muscle nor inputs from new leg sensory neurons are necessary for triggering dendritic changes. The final distribution of MN dendrites in the adult, however, is altered when the adult leg is absent, suggesting that cues from the adult leg are involved in directing or shaping the growth of MN dendrites to specific regions of neuropil.
- motor neuron
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