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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Novel, secondary sensory cell organ in ascidians: in search of the ancestor of the vertebrate lateral line.

A new mechanoreceptor organ, the "coronal organ," located in the oral siphon, is described by light and electron microscopy in the colonial ascidians Botryllus schlosseri and Botrylloides violaceus. It is composed of a line of sensory cells (hair cells), accompanied by supporting cells, that runs continuously along the margin of the velum and tentacles of the siphon. These hair cells resemble those of the vertebrate lateral line or, in general, the acoustico-lateralis system, because they bear a single cilium, located centrally or eccentrically to a hair bundle of numerous stereovilli. In contrast to other sensory cells of ascidians, the coronal hair cells are secondary sensory cells, since they lack axonal processes directed towards the cerebral ganglion. Moreover, at their base they form synapses with nerve fibers, most of which exhibit acetylcholinesterase activity. The absence of axonal extensions was confirmed by experiments with lipophilic dyes. Different kinds of synapses were recognized: usually, each hair cell forms a few afferent synapses with dendrites of neurons located in the ganglion; efferent synapses, both axo-somatic (between an axon coming from the ganglion and the hair cell) and axo-dendritic (between an axon coming from the ganglion and an afferent fiber) were occasionally found. The presence of secondary sensory cells in ascidians is discussed in relation to the evolution of sensory cells and placodes in vertebrates. It is proposed that the coronal organ in urochordates is homologous to the vertebrate acoustico-lateralis system.[1]


  1. Novel, secondary sensory cell organ in ascidians: in search of the ancestor of the vertebrate lateral line. Burighel, P., Lane, N.J., Fabio, G., Stefano, T., Zaniolo, G., Carnevali, M.D., Manni, L. J. Comp. Neurol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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