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Am J Anat. 1989 Oct;186(2):144-60.

Role of nerve and muscle factors in the development of rat muscle spindles.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Boston University, Massachusetts 02118.


The soleus muscles of fetal rats were examined by electron microscopy to determine whether the early differentiation of muscle spindles is dependent upon sensory innervation, motor innervation, or both. Simple unencapsulated afferent-muscle contacts were observed on the primary myotubes at 17 and 18 days of gestation. Spindles, encapsulations of muscle fibers innervated by afferents, could be recognized early on day 18 of gestation. The full complement of spindles in the soleus muscle was present at day 19, in the region of the neuromuscular hilum. More afferents innervated spindles at days 18 and 19 of gestation than at subsequent developmental stages, or in adult rats; hence, competition for available myotubes may exist among afferents early in development. Some of the myotubes that gave rise to the first intrafusal (bag2) fiber had been innervated by skeletomotor (alpha) axons prior to their incorporation into spindles. However, encapsulated intrafusal fibers received no motor innervation until fusimotor (gamma) axons innervated spindles 3 days after the arrival of afferents and formation of spindles, at day 20. The second (bag1) intrafusal fiber was already formed when gamma axons arrived. Thus, the assembly of bag1 and bag2 intrafusal fibers occurs in the presence of sensory but not gamma motor innervation. However, transient innervation of future bag2 fibers by alpha axons suggests that both sensory and alpha motor neurons may influence the initial stages of bag2 fiber assembly. The confinement of nascent spindles to a localized region of the developing muscle and the limited number of spindles in developing muscles in spite of an abundance of afferents raise the possibility that afferents interact with a special population of undifferentiated myotubes to form intrafusal fibers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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