It has been suggested that age changes in the morphology of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) may reflect altered physical activity levels rather than the unique effects of ageing. Additionally, previous studies have indicated that the structure of the NMJ may be modulated with exercise. To investigate these questions, quantitative morphometry was determined on soleus and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) nerve terminals stained with zinc iodide-osmium from C57BL/6NNia mice under control and endurance exercised conditions at 12, 18 and 24 months of age. As previously observed, the area, perimeter, extent length and branch number of nerve terminals increased with age in both soleus and EDL. The changes were similar between the muscle types, although the changes were more pronounced in the phasic EDL. In 12-month-old animals, 2 months of endurance exercise resulted in significantly larger nerve terminals in both soleus and EDL, suggesting a functional adaptation. Exercised 18- and 24-month-old nerve terminals were smaller than corresponding controls, which indicated that exercise minimized or prevented further age-related nerve terminal elaboration. At all ages the exercised nerve terminals comprised a more homogeneous population than corresponding controls, which indicates that uniform physical activity can modulate NMJ morphometry. The magnitude of the changes suggests that subtle alterations in normal cage activity with advancing age do not have a significant effect on the morphology of nerve terminals. However, the morphology of the NMJ does change significantly in response to physical exercise training.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology