Tunicate larvae have a non-reproductive gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) system with multiple ligands and receptor heterodimerization enabling complex regulation. In Ciona intestinalis type A larvae, one of the gnrh genes, gnrh2, is conspicuously expressed in the motor ganglion and nerve cord, which are homologous structures to the hindbrain and spinal cord, respectively, of vertebrates. The gnrh2 gene is also expressed in the proto-placodal sensory neurons, which are the proposed homologue of vertebrate olfactory neurons. Tunicate larvae occupy a non-reproductive dispersal stage, yet the role of their GnRH system remains elusive. In this study, we investigated neuronal types of gnrh2-expressing cells in Ciona larvae and visualized the activity of these cells by fluorescence imaging using a calcium sensor protein. Some cholinergic neurons and dopaminergic cells express gnrh2, suggesting that GnRH plays a role in controlling swimming behavior. However, none of the gnrh2-expressing cells overlap with glycinergic or GABAergic neurons. A role in motor control is also suggested by a relationship between the activity of gnrh2-expressing cells and tail movements. Interestingly, gnrh2-positive ependymal cells in the nerve cord, known as a kind of glia cells, actively produced Ca2+ transients, suggesting that active intercellular signaling occurs in the glia cells of the nerve cord.
ASJC Scopus subject areas