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Anat Embryol (Berl). 1985;172(3):311-24.

The development of the dendritic organization of primary and secondary motoneurons in the spinal cord of Xenopus laevis. An HRP study.


During embryonic and larval development of the clawed toad, Xenopus laevis, two different populations of motoneurons appear in the spinal cord. In this study the development of primary motoneurons which innervate the axial musculature (used during embryonic locomotion) and of secondary motoneurons which innervate the extremity musculature (used for locomotion during metamorphosis and thereafter) was analyzed with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) as a neuronal marker. After application of HRP to the axial musculature (rostral five postotic myotomes) the first labeled primary motoneurons were found at stage 24/25. During development gradually more labeled neurons were observed. These primary motoneurons send their dendrites into the marginal zone (white matter). At first only dorsal and lateral dendrites develop (stages 25-33), followed by ventral dendrites (stage 37/38). Up till stage 48 the developing dendrites extend throughout the marginal zone. Hereafter the marginal zone increases particularly at the dorsolateral edge, a development which is not followed by the dendrites of the primary motoneurons. The dendrites of mature primary motoneurons (stages 58-62) occupy the ventral and ventrolateral parts of the marginal zone. At stage 48, shortly after the hindlimb bud arises (stage 46, early metamorphosis), the first neurons related to this developing extremity could be labeled in the ventrolateral part of the lumbar spinal cord. At first these secondary motoneurons bear only a few dorsal dendrites of which only the tips reache out in the adjacent white matter. Already at stage 50 these dorsal dendrites have invaded the whole dorsolateral part of the marginal zone. Also the first ventral dendrites were observed at this stage. Later, at stage 53/54 also some ventral dendrites have reached the white matter together with a few lateral dendrites. At these early metamorphic stages already some primary afferent fibers were found making contact with the dorsomedial dendrites. At stage 58 for the first time recurrent axon collaterals were found, which extend into the ventromedial part of the marginal zone. The development of motoneurons in the spinal cord seems to be characterized by two phases: (1) establishment of contacts between motoneurons and target muscles, and (2) subsequent formation of connections of these motoneurons with other nerve cells within the central nervous system. The dendrites of primary motoneurons follow the development of the marginal zone, while dendrites of secondary motoneurons develop into an already well developed marginal zone.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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