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Exp Brain Res. 1985;60(3):509-20.

Synaptology of the medullary command (pacemaker) nucleus of the weakly electric fish (Apteronotus leptorhynchus) with particular reference to comparative aspects.


The general organization and synaptology of the medullary command (pacemaker) nucleus (MCN) was investigated in the high frequency weakly electric fish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus. This study was undertaken in order to establish differences and similarities between the MCN of A. leptorhynchus and that of the closely related species, Apteronotus albifrons which has been studied previously. The basic morphology and synaptology of the MCN in A. leptorhynchus is similar to that of A. albifrons. The MCN of A. leptorhynchus consists of large (relay) and small (pacemaker) cells; both cell types receive synaptic input or large club endings with electrotonic gap junctions and bouton-like terminals with polarized chemical synapses. Club endings originate from thick meyelinated fibres belonging to the small (pacemaker) cells, whereas the bouton-like terminals issue from thin myelinated fibers of extranuclear origin. Via their club endings, the small (pacemaker) cells are connected both to each other and to the large (relay) cells. Besides the similarities, there are distinct and characteristic differences between the MCN of the two species, which mainly concern the synaptology of the nucleus. In A. leptorhynchus, the large (relay) cells possess long dendritic processes, covered exclusively with bouton-like terminals; the axon initial segment of large (relay) cells receives boutons, in addition to club endings. Small (pacemaker) cells have short dendritic protrusions receiving input from club endings and boutons; furthermore, the small pacemaker cells axon initial segment receives both club endings and bouton-like terminals. These differences are discussed in terms of the functional organization of the MCN in certain gymnotoids and draw attention to the fact that the morphological and ultrastructural aspects of the central command of the electric organ discharge reveal several differences not only between different gymnotoid fish (Apteronotus and Eigenmannia) but also between closely related species such as A. albifrons and A. leptorhynchus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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