Acetylcholinesterase activity in antennal receptor neurons of the sphinx moth Manduca sexta

Monika Stengl, Uwe Homberg, John G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We have used a cytochemical technique to investigate the distribution of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in the antenna of the sphinx moth Manduca sexta. High levels of echothiophate-insensitive (presumably intracellular) AChE activity were found in six different types of antennal receptors localized in specific regions of the three antennal segments of the adult moth. Mechanosensory organs in the scape and pedicel, the Böhm bristles and Johnston's organ, are innervated by AChE-positive neurons. In each annulus of the antennal flagellum, AChE-positive neurons are associated with six sensilla chaetica and a peg organ, probably a sensillum styloconicum. At least 112 receptor neurons (8-10 per annulus) innervating the intersegmental membranes between the 14 distalmost annuli also exhibit high levels of echothiophate-resistant AChE. In addition, each annulus has more than 30 AChE-positive somata in the epidermis of the scale-covered (back) side of the flagellum, and 4 AChE-positive somata reside within the first annulus of the flagellum. Since none of the olfactory receptor neurons show a high level of echothiophateresistant AChE activity, and all known mechanoreceptors are AChE-positive, apparently "intracellular" AChE activity in the antenna correlates well with mechanosensory functions and is consistent with the idea that these cells employ acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-252
Number of pages8
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1990


  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Antennal receptor neurons
  • Insect antenna
  • Manduca sexta (Insecta)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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