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J Physiol. 1979 May;290(2):453-65.

Electrophysiological identification of two types of fibres in rat extraocular muscles.


1. The synaptic potentials and electrical properties of rat inferior rectus muscles were examined in vitro. 2. In most fibres the spontaneous synaptic activity consisted of typical miniature end-plate potentials which had a normal distribution of amplitudes and rather uniform time courses. Suprathreshold and maximal nerve stimulation evoked unitary end-plate potentials (e.p.p.s). The synaptic activity of these fibres could be recorded only in the innervation zone of the muscle. These fibres were identified as being focally innervated. 3. Focally innervated fibres gave action potentials upon direct and indirect stimulation. They had an effective resistance (Reff) of 1.62 +/- 0.22 M omega (mean +/- S.E., twenty-two fibres) and a time constant (tau m) of 3.8 +/- 0.4 msec (twenty-one fibres). Voltage-current curves in control saline were linear between membrane potentials of -50 to -140 mV. 4. In a small number of fibres the spontaneous synaptic activity consisted of miniature small-nerve junction potentials which had a skewed distribution of amplitudes with predominance of smaller voltages and time courses with a wide range of variation. Nerve stimulation evoked composite small-nerve junction potentials (s.j.p.s) which could be resolved into unitary components by varying the strength of stimulation. S.j.p.s had a higher threshold than e.p.p.s. Synaptic potentials could be recorded outside the innervation zone, at various sites along the muscle length. These fibres were recognized as being multiply innervated with polyneuronal innervation. 5. Multiply innervated fibres lacked action potentials had a large Reff of 6.0 +/- 1.1 M omega (six fibres) and a prolonged tau m of 29.8 +/- 4.8 msec. Reff show a moderate decrease to hyperpolarization and a rather large decrease to depolarization which denote, respectively, the presence of anomalous and delayed reactification. 6. It is concluded that rat extraocular muscles contain at least two populations of muscle fibres that in terms of synaptic activity and electrical properties are comparable to twitch fibres of other mammalian muscles and to slow or tonic fibres of amphibians.

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