Establishment of left-right asymmetric innervation in the lancelet oral region

Takao Kaji, Shinichi Aizawa, Masanori Uemura, Kinya Yasui

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Lancelets (amphioxus) exhibit a remarkable asymmetric development in the anterior body region, which is reflected in the peripheral nervous system even at adulthood. Not all of the anterior nerves are involved, but the left third to fifth nerves are clearly asymmetric. To trace the developmental process responsible for asymmetric innervation, the peripheral nerves in the anterior region were studied in pre- and mid-metamorphic larvae, 1-cm-long juveniles, and in adults by using whole-mount immunostaining. The mouth changes in size and location during larval life before moving ventrally and, in conjunction with this change, nerves in the oral region are also modified. The left second nerve initially innervates the oral region, but this connection is secondarily lost. As the mouth expands and shifts posteriorly, the left fifth to ninth nerves join the left third and fourth in the innervation of the oral region. The left third to sixth nerves anastomose with the oral nerve ring, which encircles the mouth on the left side. In the juveniles and adults, there are two nerve plexuses that run parallel to the margin of the oral hood. The innermost of these, the "inner oral-hood nerve plexus", is asymmetrically connected with the left third to fifth nerves on both sides. The other, the "outer oral-hood nerve plexus", is ipsilaterally connected with the third to seventh nerves on both sides. The velar nerve ring is also innervated asymmetrically by the left fourth and fifth nerves. From these observations, we suggest that the oral nerve ring is the precursor of both the inner oral-hood nerve plexus and the velar nerve ring, and that the asymmetric innervation retained in adult lancelets is related to the early anastomosis of the left nerves with the oral nerve ring. We also show that, contrary to the persistent asymmetric innervation, the axonal patterns of the anterior peripheral nervous system in developing lancelets can change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-405
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Jul 9


  • Chordates
  • Larva
  • Metamorphosis
  • Mouth
  • Nervous system
  • Oral nerve ring


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