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Efferent neurons of the lateral-line system and the VIII cranial nerve in the brainstem of anurans

A comparative study using retrograde tracer methods

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The octavo-lateral efferent system of several anuran species was studied by means of retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase. This system is organized similarly in all larval anurans and in all adult aglossids. All have two groups of efferent neurons in the nucleus reticularis medialis between the VIIIth and the IXth motor nucleus. The caudal group consists of efferent neurons that supply the posterior lateral-line nerve (NLLp) and a considerably smaller group of neurons supplying both the NLLp and the anterior lateral-line nerve (NLLa). The rostral group is composed of efferent neurons supplying the NLLa, neurons projecting to the inner ear and neurons supplying both the inner ear and the NLLa. Efferent neurons of the VIIIth cranial nerve exhibit a rostrocaudal cytoarchitectonic differentiation. Caudal perikarya, which are rounder in shape than those of the rostral part, have a dendritic projection to the superior olive. It is suggested that this differentiation reflects a functional differentiation of acoustic and vestibular efferent neurons.

Labeled neurons were ipsilateral to the site of application of HRP. None were found in the vestibular nuclei or in the cerebellum.

Efferent axons projecting to neuromasts of the NLLa leave the medulla with the VIIth nerve, axons projecting to neuromasts of the NLLp exit via the IXth nerve. Cell counts and the observation of axonal branching revealed that efferent units of both the lateral-line and the VIIIth-nerve system supply more than one receptor organ. In contrast to the lateral-line system, dendrites of efferent neurons of the VIIIth nerve project dorsally onto its nuclei, and afferents of the VIIIth nerve project onto efferent neurons. These structures most probably represent a feedback loop between the afferent and efferent systems of the VIIIth cranial nerve.

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Correspondence to Udo Will.

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Will, U. Efferent neurons of the lateral-line system and the VIII cranial nerve in the brainstem of anurans. Cell Tissue Res. 225, 673–685 (1982).

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Key words

  • Lateral-line
  • Labyrinth
  • VIIIth cranial nerve
  • Efferent neurons
  • Anurans