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Anat Embryol (Berl). 2001 Feb;203(2):129-36.

Changing synaptic connections on cell bodies of growing identified spinal motoneurons of the eel, Anguilla.

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Institute of Neurobiology, Biological Centre, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


As the target musculature they innervate grows throughout life, certain segmental motoneurons from the spinal cord of Anguilla, readily identified on the basis of their form and position, also increase in size. In doing so, they present a steadily increasing target to the spinal and supraspinal neurons that innervate them. How the afferent neurons respond was assessed by measuring features of their synaptic boutons contacting the motoneuronal perikarya, as seen with electron microscopy. About 60% of the perimeter of the perikaryal profile of each motoneuron was found to be covered with synaptic bouton profiles, a value that is independent of the size of the motoneuron. Furthermore, the distances between synaptic profiles, their contact sizes (measured as apposition length) and the number and size of the vesicles each profile contains were all found to be relatively constant and also independent of motoneuronal size. In contrast, the number of synaptic profiles contacting a motoneuron correlated well with its perikaryal size. Our findings indicate that the challenge of a growing neuronal target is met by a steady increase in the number of contacting boutons, the form and spacing of which are held relatively constant; this strategy will require continual synaptic realignment at the target.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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