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Arthropod Struct Dev. 2003 Aug;32(1):103-23.

Early steps in building the insect brain: neuroblast formation and segmental patterning in the developing brain of different insect species.

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Institute for Genetics, University of Mainz, Saarstrasse 21, 55122 Mainz, Germany.


In insects, morphological, molecular and genetic studies have provided a detailed insight into the ontogenetic processes that shape the ventral nerve cord. On the other hand, owing to its complexity and less obvious segmental composition, the knowledge about the development of the brain is still fragmentary. A promising approach towards gaining insight into fundamental processes underlying brain development is the comparison of embryonic brain development among different insect species. However, so far such comparative analyses are scarce. In this review, we summarize and compare data on the early steps in brain formation in different hemi- and holometabolous insects. We show that basic aspects of the spatial and temporal development of the embryonic brain neuroblast pattern are conserved among insects. Furthermore, we compare the number and proliferation patterns of neuroblasts related to major neuropil structures such as mushroom bodies, central complex, and antennal lobe. Finally, comparing the expression patterns of engrailed in different species, and considering new data from Drosophila melanogaster, we discuss the segmental organization of the insect brain.

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