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J Neurobiol. 1978 Jan;9(1):1-15.

Fast-axon synapses of a crab leg muscle.


Neuromuscular synapses of the "fast" excitatory axon supplying the main extensor muscle in the leg of the shore crab Pachygrapsus crassipes were studied with electrophysiological and electron-microscopic techniques. Electrical recording showed that many muscle fibers of the central region of the extensor muscle responded only to stimulation of the fast axon, and electron microscopy revealed many unitary subterminal axon branches. Maintained stimulation, even at a low frequency, resulted in depression of the excitatory junctional potentials (EJPs) set up by the fast axon but EJPs of different muscle fibers depressed at different rates, indicating some physiological heterogeneity among the fast-axon synapses. Focal recording at individual synaptic sites on the surfaces of the muscle fibers showed quantal contents ranging from 1.4 to 5.5 at different synapses; these values are relatively high in comparison with similar determinations made in the crayfish opener muscle. Synapse-bearing nerve terminals were generally relatively small in diameter and filiform, with many individual synaptic contact areas of uniform size averaging 0.6 micron2. All of the individual synapses had a presynaptic "dense body" at which synaptic vesicles clustered. If these structures represent release points for transmitter quanta, the initial high quantal content would have an ultrastructural basis. The mitochondial content of the nerve terminals, the synaptic vesicle population, and the specialized subsynaptic sarcoplasm were all much reduced in comparison with tonic axon synaptic regions in this and other crustaceans. The latter features may be correlated with the relatively infrequent use of this axon by the animal, and with rapid fatigue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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