The infective larvae (L3i) of the nematode parasite of swine, Oesophagostomum dentatum, are passively ingested by their hosts. The L3i exhibit certain behaviors that are probably selected to increase the likelihood of ingestion, by strategic positioning in the environment. The larvae show positive geotactic behavior and respond to temperature variations in their environment, as shown by their behavior on a thermal gradient. To investigate neuronal control of this behavior, we initiated a study of the structure of the amphidial neurons of this parasite. The same number and types of neuronal dendritic processes are found in the amphids of the O. dentatum L3i as in those of its close relatives Haemonchus contortus and Ancylostoma caninum. Well-developed dendritic processes of wing cells are located in the amphidial sheath cells, these being similar to wing cells AWA in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans but actually more extensive. Similar to its close relatives just mentioned, and C. elegans as well, O. dentatum L3i has prominent finger cell processes, the finger cell neurons being the thermoreceptors in all 3 of the preceding species. However, unlike the arrangement seen in H. contortus and A. caninum, where the microvilli-like “fingers” of these neurons lie dorsal to the amphidial channel and occupy a very large portion (>50%) of the anterior end of the larva, the dendritic process of the finger cells in O. dentatum extends into unusual linguiform projections that, in turn, extend into the lumen of the mouth tube, a complex structural arrangement that has not been described for any other nematode.
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