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  • 1 Department of Biology, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro North Carolina 27402-6170, USA
  • 2 Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University Auburn, AL 36849-5508, USA
  • 3 EMSL Analytical, Inc. 231 Longview Drive, Kernersville NC 27284, USA
  • 4 Program in Neuroscience, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd. Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1010, USA
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The central nervous system (CNS) of a metamorphically competent larva of the caenogastropod Ilyanassa obsoleta contains a medial, unpaired apical ganglion (AG) of approximately 25 neurons that lies above the commissure connecting the paired cerebral ganglia. The AG, also known as the cephalic or apical sensory organ (ASO), contains numerous sensory neurons and innervates the ciliated velar lobes, the larval swimming and feeding structures. Before metamorphosis, the AG contains 5 serotonergic neurons and exogenous serotonin can induce metamorphosis in competent larvae. The AG appears to be a purely larval structure as it disappears within 3 days of metamorphic induction. In competent larvae, most neurons of the AG display nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-like immunoreactivity and inhibition of NOS activity can induce larval metamorphose. Because nitric oxide (NO) can prevent cells from undergoing apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death (PCD), we hypothesize that inhibition of NOS activity triggers the loss of the AG at the beginning of the metamorphic process. Within 24 hours of metamorphic induction, cellular changes that are typical of the early stages of PCD are visible in histological sections and results of a terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay in metamorphosing larvae show AG nuclei containing fragmented DNA, supporting our hypothesis.

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