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J Comp Neurol. 1975 Jun 1;161(3):383-418.

Some aspects of synaptogenesis in the spinal cord of the chick embryo: a quantitative electron microscopic study.


We have quantitatively examined the development of synapses in the ventral part of the lumbar spinal cord of the chick from embryonic day 4 until adulthood. The first synapses occur on day 4 and are of the axo-dendritic type; they are invariably located adjacent to the border between the intermediate and marginal zones. Initially there are more synapses in the presumptive white matter than in the motoneuron neuropil, but this trend is later reversed; however, we found numerous axo-dendritic synapses throughout much of the ventrolateral white matter even in the adult stage. The first axo-dendritic synapses always contain spherical synaptic vesicles and have symmetric membrane specilizations. By day 7 a few of these synapses were found to have mixed populations of spherical and flattened vesicles and asymmetric membrane specilizations. After hatching there are still considerably more axo-dendritic synapses with symmetric membrane specializations. Axo-somatic synapses were first found on embryonic day 6 and were typically located on motoneurons lying adjacent to the marginal zone. These axo-somatic synapses contain a few spherical synaptic vesicles and have symmetric membrane densities. Flattened synaptic vesicles were first found on day 10 and increased throughout development. Although a few axo-somatic synapses with asymmetric membrane specializations were found at practically all stages, the symmetric type was always in the majority. An attempt was made to relate these observations with physiological, behavioral and neuroembryological findings from birds and other forms. For example, the fact that axo-dendritic synapses always appear prior to axo-somatic contacts would seem to rule out the role of somatic synapsesin the initial induction of dendritic growth in the spinal cord.

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