Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Localisation of substance P-, somatostatin-, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and met-enkephalin-immunoreactive nerves in the peripheral and central nervous systems of the leech (Hirudo medicinalis)


The distribution of substance P (SP)-, somatostatin (SOM)-, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)- and met-enkephalin (mENK)-immunoreactive nerve fibres and cell bodies has been studied in the gastrointestinal tract, lateral blood vessel (heart) and segmental ganglia of the leech (Hirudo medicinalis). In the crop and intestine, there was a sparse distribution of VIP-, SP-, SOM- and mENK-immunoreactive nerves, while in the intestine, a dense network of SP-, a moderate network of SOM-, and a sparse distribution of mENK- and VIP-immunoreactive nerve fibres was seen. SP-, SOM- and VIP-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies were found in all the gut regions studied, the greatest number being in the intestine. No mENK-containing cell bodies were seen in any region of the gastrointestinal tract. The heart contained a few SP-, SOM-, and VIP-immunoreactive nerve fibres, but no nerve cell bodies were found. Immunoreactive nerve cell bodies were also present in the segmentai ganglia. A typical midbody ganglion contained up to seven pairs of SP-containing neurones, four pairs of SOM-containing neurones, two pairs of VIP-containing neurones and one to three pairs of mENK-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies. The lateral pair of large SOM-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies is of similar size and correct position to the lateral N cells. One of the pairs of large SP-immunoreactive nerve cell bodies is probably identical to the Leydig cells. A tentative identification of other immunofluorescent nerve cells is attempted. Immunoreactive nerve fibres to all four peptides were distributed throughout the neuropil, those to SP being the most numerous.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alumets J, Håkanson R, Sundler F, Theorell J (1979) Neuronal localization of immunoreactive β-endorphin in the earthworm. Nature 279:805–806

  2. Aros B, Wenger T, Vigh B, Vigh-Teichmann I (1980) Immunohistochemical localization of substance P and ACTH-like activity in the central nervous system of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris L. Acta Histochem 66:262–268

  3. Calabrese RL, Maranto AR (1984) Neural control of the hearts in the leech, Hirudo medicinalis. J Comp Physiol A 154:393–406

  4. Campbell G, Burnstock G (1968) Comparative physiology of gastrointestinal motility. In: Code CF (ed) Handbook of Physiology, Section 6: Alimentary canal, Vol. IV: Motility. American Physiological Society, Washington, pp 2213–2216

  5. Cardot J, Fellmann D, Gouget A (1982) Innervation peptidergique du tube digestif du Mollusque Helix aspersa. J Physiol (Paris) 78:2B

  6. Cline HT (1983) 3H-GABA uptake selectively labels identifiable neurons in the leech central nervous system. J Comp Neurol 215:351–358

  7. Coons AH (1958) Fluorescent antibody methods. In: Danielli JF (ed) General cytochemical methods. Academic Press, New York, pp 399–422

  8. Duve H, Thorpe A (1982) The distribution of pancreatic polypeptide in the nervous system and gut of the blowfly, Calliphora vomitoria (Diptera). Cell Tissue Res 227:67–77

  9. Endo Y, Iwanaga T, Fujita T, Nishiitsutsuji-Uwo (1982) Localization of pancreatic polypeptide (PP)-like immunoreactivity in the central and visceral nervous systems of the cockroach Periplaneta. Cell Tissue Res 227:1–9

  10. Fritsch HAR, Van Noorden S, Pearse AGE (1978) Localization of somatostatin and gastrin-like immunoreactivity in the gastrointestinal tract of Ciona intestinalis L. Cell Tissue Res 186:181–185

  11. Fuchs PA, Nicholls JG, Ready DF (1981) Membrane properties and selective connexions of identified leech neurones in culture. J Physiol 316:203–223

  12. Furness JB, Costa M (1982) Identification of gastrointestinal neurotransmitters. In: Bertaccini G (Ed). Handbook of experimental pharmacology, Vol 59., Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 383–460

  13. Furness JB, Costa M, Papka RE, Delia NG, Murphy R (1984). Neuropeptides contained in peripheral cardiovascular nerves. Clin Exper Hypertens: Theory & Practice A6 (1&2): 91–106

  14. Grimmelikhuijzen CJP, Balfe A, Emson PC, Powell D, Sundler F (1981) Substance P-like immunoreactivity in the nervous system of Hydra. Histochemistry 71:325–333

  15. Hökfelt T, Johannsson O, Ljungdahl A, Lundberg JM, Schultzberg M (1980) Peptidergic neurones. Nature 284:515–521

  16. Iwanaga T, Fujita T, Nishiitsutsuji-Uwo J, Endo Y (1981) Immunohistochemical demonstration of PP-, somatostatin-, enteroglucagon- and VIP-like immunoreactivities in the cockroach midgut. Biomed Res 2:202–207

  17. Keyser KT, Frazer BM, Lent CM (1982) Physiological and anatomical properties of Leydig cells in the segmental nervous system of the leech. J Comp Physiol 146:379–392

  18. Kuffler D (1978) Neuromuscular transmission in longitudinal muscle of the leech Hirudo medicinalis. J Comp Physiol 124:333–338

  19. Kuhlman JR, Calabrese RL, Li C (1984) FMRFamide-like substance in the leech: immunocytochemical localization. Soc Neurosci Abstr 10:151

  20. Leake LD, Griffith SG, Burnstock G (1985) 5-Hydroxytryptamine-like immunoreactivity in the peripheral and central nervous systems of the leech Hirudo medicinalis. Cell Tissue Res 239:123–130

  21. Li C, Calabrese RL (1985) Evidence for proctolin-like substances in the central nervous system of the leech Hirudo medicinalis. J Comp Neurol 232:414–424

  22. Müller KJ, Nicholls JG, Stent GS (eds) (1981) Neurobiology of the leech. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, pp 320

  23. Nicholls JG, Baylor DA (1968) Specific modalities and receptive fields of sensory neurons in CNS of the leech. J Neurophysiol 16:740–756

  24. Osborne NN, Cuello AC, Dockray GJ (1981a) Substance P and cholecystokinin-like peptides in Helix neurons and cholecystokinin and serotonin in a giant neuron. Science 216:409–411

  25. Osborne NN, Patel S, Dockray G (1982b) Immunohistochemical demonstration of peptides, serotonin and dopamine β-hydroxylase-like material in the nervous system of the leech Hirudo medicinalis. Histochemistry 75:573–583

  26. Rémy C, Girardie J, Dubois MD (1979) Vertebrate neuropeptide-like substances in the suboesophageal ganglion of two insects: Locusta migratoria R. and F. (Orthoptera) and Bombyx mori L. (Lepidoptera). Immunocytological investigation. Gen Comp Endocrinol 37:93–100

  27. Rzaza P, Kaloustian K, Prokop EK (1982) Immunochemical evidence for a gastrin-like peptide in the intestinal tissues of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris. Comp Biochem Physiol 71A:631–634

  28. Sawyer RT (1985) Leech biology and behaviour. Oxford University Press (in press)

  29. Sundler F, Håkanson R, Alumets J, Walles B (1977) Neuronal localization of pancreatic polypeptide (PP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) immunoreactivity in the earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris). Brain Res Bull 2:61–65

  30. Van Noorden S, Falkmar S (1980) Gut-islet endocrinology-some evolutionary aspects. Invest Cell Pathol 3:21–36

  31. Zipser B (1980) Identification of specific leech neurons immunoreactive to enkephalin. Nature 283:857–858

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Professor G. Burnstock.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Leake, L.D., Crowe, R. & Burnstock, G. Localisation of substance P-, somatostatin-, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and met-enkephalin-immunoreactive nerves in the peripheral and central nervous systems of the leech (Hirudo medicinalis). Cell Tissue Res. 243, 345–351 (1986).

Download citation

Key words

  • Neuropeptides
  • Central nervous system, invertebrate
  • Gut
  • Heart
  • Leech (Hirudo medicinalis)