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Neuropeptide complexity in the crustacean central olfactory pathway: immunolocalization of A-type allatostatins and RFamide-like peptides in the brain of a terrestrial hermit crab

Marta A Polanska1, Oksana Tuchina2, Hans Agricola3, Bill S Hansson2 and Steffen Harzsch24*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Physiology, Zoological Institute, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, 1 Miecznikowa Street, 02-096, Warsaw, Poland

2 Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, D-07745, Jena, Germany

3 Zentrum für Molekulare Biomedizin, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Philosophenweg 12, D-07743, Jena, Germany

4 Zoological Institute and Museum, Cytology and Evolutionary Biology, Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, 17497, Germany

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Molecular Brain 2012, 5:29  doi:10.1186/1756-6606-5-29

Published: 11 September 2012



In the olfactory system of malacostracan crustaceans, axonal input from olfactory receptor neurons associated with aesthetascs on the animal’s first pair of antennae target primary processing centers in the median brain, the olfactory lobes. The olfactory lobes are divided into cone-shaped synaptic areas, the olfactory glomeruli where afferents interact with local olfactory interneurons and olfactory projection neurons. The local olfactory interneurons display a large diversity of neurotransmitter phenotypes including biogenic amines and neuropeptides. Furthermore, the malacostracan olfactory glomeruli are regionalized into cap, subcap, and base regions and these compartments are defined by the projection patterns of the afferent olfactory receptor neurons, the local olfactory interneurons, and the olfactory projection neurons. We wanted to know how neurons expressing A-type allatostatins (A-ASTs; synonym dip-allatostatins) integrate into this system, a large family of neuropeptides that share the C-terminal motif –YXFGLamide.


We used an antiserum that was raised against the A-type Diploptera punctata (Dip)-allatostatin I to analyse the distribution of this peptide in the brain of a terrestrial hermit crab, Coenobita clypeatus (Anomura, Coenobitidae). Allatostatin A-like immunoreactivity (ASTir) was widely distributed in the animal’s brain, including the visual system, central complex and olfactory system. We focussed our analysis on the central olfactory pathway in which ASTir was abundant in the primary processing centers, the olfactory lobes, and also in the secondary centers, the hemiellipsoid bodies. In the olfactory lobes, we further explored the spatial relationship of olfactory interneurons with ASTir to interneurons that synthesize RFamide-like peptides. We found that these two peptides are present in distinct populations of local olfactory interneurons and that their synaptic fields within the olfactory glomeruli are also mostly distinct.


We discuss our findings against the background of the known neurotransmitter complexity in the crustacean olfactory pathway and summarize what is now about the neuronal connectivity in the olfactory glomeruli. A-type allatostatins, in addition to their localization in protocerebral brain areas, seem to be involved in modulating the olfactory signal at the level of the deutocerebrum. They contribute to the complex local circuits within the crustacean olfactory glomeruli the connectivity within which as yet is completely unclear. Because the glomeruli of C. clypeatus display a distinct pattern of regionalization, their olfactory systems form an ideal model to explore the functional relevance of glomerular compartments and diversity of local olfactory interneurons for olfactory processing in crustaceans.

Coenobita clypeatus; Hermit crab; Olfactory lobe; Central complex; Neuropeptide; Immunhistochemistry; Allatostatin