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J Physiol. 1978 Nov;284:391-414.

The development of motor projection patterns in the chick hind limb.


1. Retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase was used to map the initial projection patterns of lumbosacral motoneurones to the embryonic chick hind limb. 2. The stage 28 segmental projection pattern to each of the four primary muscle masses was characteristic and indistinguishable from the stage 36 projection pattern to the sum of the muscles derived from that mass. In addition, the adductor motoneurone pool was found to be similar in position (both rostro-caudal and mediolateral) at stages 29, 30, 32, 33 1/2 and 36. 3. Therefore axons from lumbosacral motoneurones project for the most part only to appropriate regions from early times shortly after they grow into the limb bud. Furthermore, the attainment of the segmental projection pattern occurs prior to the normal time of, and therefore without the aid of, cell death. This conclusion was supported by electrophysiological recordings made from muscle nerves. 4. A regionalization of the projection patterns within a single muscle mass could be shown both anatomically and physiologically prior to the cleavage of the mass into individual muscles and the projections were in a general way appropriate for the muscles derived from those regions. 5. Therefore the process of muscle cleavage does not in itself create the specific projection patterns observed, and motoneurone axons appear to grow to and to ramify and make synapses only within regions which correspond to their adult muscles. 6. Finally, the termination site of each motoneurone axon in the early limb was found to be tightly correlated in a somatotopic fashion with the position occupied by its soma in the cord. This suggests that some feature of the motoneurone related to its position may be of importance in achieving the specific projection patterns observed.

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