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Am J Anat. 1988 Dec;183(4):344-58.

Innervation of developing intrafusal muscle fibers in the rat.

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


The chronology of development of spindle neural elements was examined by electron microscopy in fetal and neonatal rats. The three types of intrafusal muscle fiber of spindles from the soleus muscle acquired sensory and motor innervation in the same sequence as they formed--bag2, bag1, and chain. Both the primary and secondary afferents contacted developing spindles before day 20 of gestation. Sensory endings were present on myoblasts, myotubes, and myofibers in all intrafusal bundles regardless of age. The basic features of the sensory innervation--first-order branching of the parent axon, separation of the primary and secondary sensory regions, and location of both primary and secondary endings beneath the basal lamina of the intrafusal fibers--were all established by the fourth postnatal day. Cross-terminals, sensory terminals shared by more than one intrafusal fiber, were more numerous at all developmental stages than in mature spindles. No afferents to immature spindles were supernumerary, and no sensory axons appeared to retract from terminations on intrafusal fibers. The earliest motor axons contacted spindles on the 20th day of gestation or shortly afterward. More motor axons supplied the immature spindles, and a greater number of axon terminals were visible at immature intrafusal motor endings than in adult spindles; hence, retraction of supernumerary motor axons accompanies maturation of the fusimotor system analogous to that observed during the maturation of the skeletomotor system. Motor endings were observed only on the relatively mature myofibers; intrafusal myoblasts and myotubes lacked motor innervation in all age groups. This independence of the early stages of intrafusal fiber assembly from motor innervation may reflect a special inherent myogenic potential of intrafusal myotubes or may stem from the innervation of spindles by sensory axons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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