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J Comp Neurol. 2001 Jan 1;429(1):156-65.

Promotion of motoneuron survival and branching in rapsyn-deficient mice.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Inhibition of programmed cell death of motoneurons during embryonic development requires the presence of their target muscle and coincides with the initial stages of synaptogenesis. To evaluate the role of synapse formation on motoneuron survival during embryonic development, we counted the number of motoneurons in rapsyn-deficient mice. Rapsyn is a 43 kDa protein needed for the formation of postsynaptic specialisations at vertebrate neuromuscular synapses. Here we show that the rapsyn-deficient mice have a significant increase in the number of motoneurons in the brachial lateral motor column during the period of naturally occurring programmed cell death compared to their wild-type littermates. In addition, we observed an increase in intramuscular axonal branching in the rapsyn-deficient diaphragms compared to their wild-type littermates at embryonic day 18.5. These results suggest that deficits in the formation of the postsynaptic specialisation at the neuromuscular synapse, brought about by the absence of rapsyn, are sufficient to induce increases in both axonal branching and the survival of the innervating motoneuron. Moreover, these results support the idea that skeletal muscle activity through effective synaptic transmission and intramuscular axonal branching are major mechanisms that regulate motoneuron survival during development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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