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Regeneration of olfactory afferent axons in the locust brain



The insect olfactory system consists of thousands of sensory neurons on each antenna, which project into the primary olfactory center, the glomerular antennnal lobe. There, they form synapses with local interneurons and projection neurons, which relay olfactory information to the second-order olfactory center, the mushroom body. Olfactory afferents of adult locusts (Locusta migratoria) were axotomized by crushing the base of the antenna. We studied the resulting degeneration and regeneration in the antennal lobe by size measurements, anterograde dye labeling through the antennal nerve, and immunofluorescence staining of cell surface markers. Within 3 days postcrush, the antennal lobe size was reduced by 30% and from then onward regained size back to normal by 2 weeks postinjury. Concomitantly, anterograde labeling revealed regenerating afferents reaching the antennal lobe by day 4 postcrush, and reinnervating the olfactory neuropil almost back to normal within 2 weeks. Regenerated fibers were directed precisely into the antennal lobe, where they reinnervated glomeruli. As a remarkable exception, a few regenerating fibers projected erroneously into the mushroom body on a pathway that is normally chosen by second-order projection neurons. Regenerating afferents expressed the cell surface proteins lachesin and fasciclin I. The antennal lobe neuropil expressed the cell surface marker semaphorin 1a. In conclusion, axonal regeneration in the locust olfactory system appears to be possible, precise, and fast, opening the possibility of future functional and mechanistic studies. J. Comp. Neurol., 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.