The two antennal lobes, the primary olfactory centers of the brain, of the moth Manduca sexta each contain one neuron that displays serotonin immunoreactivity. The neuron projects out of the antennal lobe and sends branches into ipsi- and contralateral protocerebral areas. An axon-like process extends from the contralateral protocerebrum to, and terminates in, the contralateral antennal lobe. In order to begin to investigate the possible role of this unique neuron in olfactory information processing, we have used laser scanning confocal microscopic and electron microscopic immunocytochemical techniques to study the ramification pattern, ultrastructural characteristics, and synaptic connections of the neuron in the antennal lobes of female adult Manduca sexta. The neuron ramifies extensively in the antennal lobe contralateral to the cell body. The ramifications, mainly in the base and center of each glomerulus, do not overlap with those of the sensory axons from the antenna. This finding suggests that the serotonin-immunoreactive neuron may not receive direct input from sensory neurons, and that it may modulate the activity of the neurons of the antennal lobe rather than that of the sensory neurons. In the electron microscope, the neuron exhibits large dense-cored vesicles and small, clear round vesicles. In the antennal lobe ipsilateral to the cell body, the primary neurite of the serotonin-immunoreactive neuron is unbranched and lacks detectable synaptic connections. The ramifications in the contralateral antennal lobe, however, participate in synaptic connections. At very low frequency, contralateral branches form synapses onto unlabeled processes and also receive synapses from unidentified neurons in the glomeruli, indicating that the neuron may participate directly in synaptic processing of olfactory information. The high ratio of output to input synapses made by the serotonin-immunoreactive processes in the contralateral antennal lobe is consistent with the idea that this neuron may receive synaptic input via its bilateral branches in the protocerebrum and then send information to the contralateral antennal lobe where the neuron may exert feedback or modulatory influences on olfactory information processing in the glomeruli.
- double labeling
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