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J Neurocytol. 1981 Feb;10(1):101-10.

The overall morphology of neuromuscular junctions as revealed by scanning electron microscopy.


Skeletal neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) of vertebrates were examined by scanning electron microscopy after removal of connective tissue components by HCl hydrolysis. In addition to the surface texture of NMJs, the subsynaptic organization of the sarcolemma was visualized in specimens in which nerve endings were detached from the muscle surface. A remarkable morphological variability between animal species was observed. The NMJs in the frog sartorius muscle consisted of longitudinal ribbon-like endings which fitted into a shallow synaptic gutter containing highly ordered cross-bands of junctional folds. The NMJs of the posterior latissimus dorsi muscle of the zebra finch were characterized by varicose swellings of the nerve endings which fitted into a round pit of the sarcolemma. NMJs in the sternothyroid muscle of the Chinese hamster consisted of thin ramified endings which were confined to an oval area on the muscle surface. The labyrinthine synaptic groove contained well-developed junctional folds without preferential spatial arrangement. The procedure used for the present study illustrates in great detail the terminal arborization of the motor nerve ending and the surface features of the subsynaptic sarcolemma. It may also allow quantitative study of the synaptic morphology of NMJs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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