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J Neurocytol. 1993 Aug;22(8):603-15.

The effects of exercise training of different intensities on neuromuscular junction morphology.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs 06269-3042.


Little is known about the effects of exercise training on neuromuscular junction morphology in skeletal muscle. The objectives of this investigation were: 1) to determine if exercise training would elicit changes in neuromuscular junction morphology, 2) to determine if exercise training of different intensities would evoke specific changes in neuromuscular junction morphology, and 3) to determine whether changes in neuromuscular junction structure occur independently of changes in muscle fibre type and size. Twenty-four age and size matched male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to three groups: high-intensity trained (HIT), low-intensity trained (LIT), or untrained. Neuromuscular junction morphology of the soleus muscle was determined via immunofluorescent staining. Presynaptic acetylcholine vesicles were visualized with SV-2 antibody in conjunction with fluorescein isothiocyanate labelled secondary secondary antibody. Postsynaptic acetylcholine receptors were identified with rhodamine labelled alpha-bungarotoxin. Laser scanning microscopy was used to produce images of synapses, which were used to quantitate the following: total area of SV-2 and alpha-bungarotoxin staining, density of acetylcholine vesicles and receptors, structural complexity, and synaptic coupling. To visualize nerve terminal branching, a smaller number of neuromuscular junctions were stained with C-2 antibody, which reacts with a neurofilament epitope, in conjunction with fluorescein isothiocyanate labelled secondary antibody. Total length of branching, number of branches, average length of branches, and ratio of secondary to primary branches per neuromuscular junction were determined. Citrate synthase activity, fibre type composition and fibre cross-sectional areas of the soleus muscle were assessed to determine the presence of a training effect in that muscle. Results indicate that training did induce hypertrophy of the neuromuscular junction that was independent of muscle hypertrophy. Although the HIT and LIT groups exhibited similar hypertrophic responses of the neuromuscular junction, the HIT group displayed more dispersed synapses than the LIT group. Neither exercise training program, however, resulted in altered densities of acetylcholine vesicles or receptors, nor did training significantly change synaptic coupling. Nerve terminal branching was also affected by exercise training. Neuromuscular junctions from the HIT group demonstrated a greater total length of branching, average length per branch, and number of finer, or secondary, branches than those of the LIT group.

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