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PLoS Biol. 2009 Feb 10;7(2):e32. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000032.

The interscutularis muscle connectome.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Erratum in

  • PLoS Biol. 2009 Apr;7(4):e1000108.


The complete connectional map (connectome) of a neural circuit is essential for understanding its structure and function. Such maps have only been obtained in Caenorhabditis elegans. As an attempt at solving mammalian circuits, we reconstructed the connectomes of six interscutularis muscles from adult transgenic mice expressing fluorescent proteins in all motor axons. The reconstruction revealed several organizational principles of the neuromuscular circuit. First, the connectomes demonstrate the anatomical basis of the graded tensions in the size principle. Second, they reveal a robust quantitative relationship between axonal caliber, length, and synapse number. Third, they permit a direct comparison of the same neuron on the left and right sides of the same vertebrate animal, and reveal significant structural variations among such neurons, which contrast with the stereotypy of identified neurons in invertebrates. Finally, the wiring length of axons is often longer than necessary, contrary to the widely held view that neural wiring length should be minimized. These results show that mammalian muscle function is implemented with a variety of wiring diagrams that share certain global features but differ substantially in anatomical form. This variability may arise from the dominant role of synaptic competition in establishing the final circuit.

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