Physiological and anatomical properties of Leydig cells in the segmental nervous system of the leech

Academic Article


  • Each of the 21 segmental ganglia in the American leech Macrobdella decora contains a pair of Leydig cells (ca. 45 μm) each of which is located in a posteriolateral glial packet. Leydig cells exhibit spontaneous action potentials (1-10/s) whose duration and undershoot depend upon membrane polarization. The two Leydig cells within each ganglion are bidirectionally-coupled (V2/V1≅0.3). Pairs of ipsilateral Leydig cells within adjacent ganglia are mutually excitatory such that an impulse in one generates an impulse in the other. The interganglionic latency for any cell pair is constant regardless of the direction of impulse conduction and is unchanged by 20 mM Mg2+ saline. These data indicate that the interactions are not mediated by chemical synapses. Additionally, the results of collision experiments lead us to infer that ipsilateral Leydig cell pairs utilize common axonal pathways for interganglionic interactions. If Leydig cells are driven by current injection to fire impulses at frequencies of six to ten per s, cells in adjacent ganglia exhibit impulse failures. The combination of spontaneous activity, intraganglionic coupling and interganglionic interactions results in the generation of constant, low frequency impulse activity and can cause impulse reverberations. The branching pattern of Leydig cells filled with HRP is consistent with their functional properties and connectivity. Each cell sends axons to both adjacent ganglia through the ipsilateral connectives and projects to the periphery only by the lateral roots of these adjacent ganglia. This unusual morphology was verified Lucifer Yellow CH. In addition to intraganglionic dye-coupling, dye coupling was occasionally evident between ipsilateral cells in adjacent ganglia. Electron microscopy of Leydig cells depicts abundant 100 nm granules in both their somata and neuropilar processes. Although this fine structure suggests a neurosecretory role, we were unable to discern a peripheral function for these neurons. © 1982 Springer-Verlag.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Keyser KT; Frazer BM; Lent CM
  • Start Page

  • 379
  • End Page

  • 392
  • Volume

  • 146
  • Issue

  • 3