The enteric neuromuscular junctions of snail (Helix pomatia), locust (Locusta migratoria migratorioides), cockroach (Periplaneta americana), carp (Cyprinus carpio) and tench (Tinea tinea) were studied by means of different light and electron microscopic methods. The nitroblue tetrazolium staining revealed that the myenteric plexuses of the above species are composed of nerve cells, a network of varicose nerves and nerve bundles. Instead of highly organized ganglia, single neurons or small groups of 2-4 cells are characteristic of the invertebrates and fish studied. Catecholaminergic fluorescence induced by glyoxylic acid was detected in the muscular layer of the entire alimentary tract in snail and the hindgut of tench. Fluorescent nerves and perikarya were frequent in the snail gut, while only nerves and no perikarya were found in tench. A close contact between enteric muscles and nerves is the most common form of enteric neuromuscular junction in both the smooth (i.e. the molluscan and fish gut) and the striated (i.e. the insect gut) musculature. The striated musculature (i.e. the insect gut, the oesophagus of carp, and the oesophagus, stomach and the midgut of tench) also receives a synaptic input. Cytochemical evidence is provided of the cholinergic character of fish motor endplates. The ultrastructural appearance and vesicle population of certain nerve terminals suggest a universal role of aminergic and peptidergic control in gut motility.
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