Postembryonic development of γ‐aminobutyric acid‐like Immunoreactivity in the brain of the sphinx moth Manduca sexta

Uwe Homberg, John G. Hildebrand

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43 Scopus citations


We have investigated the distribution of immunocytochemical staining for the neurotransmitter γ‐aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain of the sphinx moth Manduca sexta during larval, pupal, and adult development. In the larval brain, about 300 neurons are GABA‐immunoreactive. All neuropil areas except the mushroom bodies and central complex show intense immunostaining. Only minor changes in the pattern of immunoreactivity occur during larval development. During metamorphosis, changes in immunostaining occur in two phases. Beginning in wandering fifth‐instar larvae (stage W2), immunoreactivity appears in numerous neurons of the central body and optic lobe and becomes more intense during early pupal stages. At the same time, GABA‐like immunoreactivity disappears in most neuropil areas of the brain and becomes faint in many immunoreactive somata. Neurons with arborizations in the ventrolateral protocerebrum, however, continue to exhibit intense immunostaining during this period, and strongly immunolabeled fibers connect these areas with the ventral nerve cord. The second phase of transformation begins around pupal stage P5/P6, when faint immunostaining appears in many previously nonimmunoreactive somata and most neuropil areas of the brain. In subsequent stages (P8–P10), this immunoreactivity disappears again in most somata, but in certain cell groups, it becomes more intense and gradually develops to the adult pattern. Most larval GABA‐immunoreactive neurons appear to survive through metamorphosis into the adult. Neurons in the midbrain that acquire GABA‐like immunoreactivity during metamorphosis usually lie adjacent to larval immunostained neurons, suggesting common lineages. The onsets of the two developmental phases of GABA‐like immunoreactivity correlate with sharp rises in hemolymph titers of ecdysteroid hormones, suggesting a role for ecdysteroids in the regulation of GABA synthesis. We hypothesize that the disappearance of GABA in many areas of the brain starting 2 days prior to pupation dramatically alters its functional circuitry and thus may account for profound changes in the behavior of the animal. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-149
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • immunocytochemistry
  • insect brain
  • insect metamorphosis
  • neuroanatomy
  • neurotransmitters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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