The medullary projections of the anterior lateral line nerve, dorsal branch (Alln.d), the posterior lateral line nerve, dorsal branch (PLLn.d), associated cutaneous nerves, and the VIIIth nerve in Xenopus laevis have been delineated by axonal infusion of cobalt chloride and silver intensification. The peripheral innervation of the posterior lateral line sense organs has also been traced. From wholemount and sectioned preparations, we describe three central projections, extending the length of the ipsilateral medulla but occupying distinct zones: lateral line afferents dorsomedially, stato-acoustic dorsolaterally, and cutaneous ventrolaterally.
Arborizations of ALLn.d and PLLn.d afferents are morphologically similar, intermingling throughout the lateral line lobe. Each divides into ascending and descending limbs bearing collaterals, which terminate in the lateral line neuropile and nucleus. Evidence is presented for directional and positional mapping in the branching of individual PLLn.d afferents and for topography in the ALLn.d projection. Second-order neurones have been identified by transneuronal staining and their axons traced into the contralateral torus semicircularis. The morphology of efferent neurones is also described.
Rostral branches of PLLn.d also contain cutaneous afferents which run through the medulla into the spinal cord, similar to the nerve V (cutaneous) projection. In nerve VIII preparations, the projection to the compact cochlear nucleus and the massive vestibular projection are identified. Cutaneous and vestibular but not lateral line afferents extend into the cerebellum.
The separation of VIIIth nerve and lateral line afferents in Xenopus medulla is considered as evidence against the validity of the acousticolateralis concept. Information processing in the lateral line lobe is discussed in relation to connectivity patterns between first- and second-order neurones.