Endplate topography of denervated and disused rat neuromuscular junctions: Comparison by scanning and light microscopy

S. S. Labovitz, N. Robbins, M. A. Fahim

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28 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of denervation and tetrodotoxin-induced muscle disuse on endplate structure was investigated in rat hind-limb muscles. The endplate was visualized by light microscopic cholinesterase staining and by scanning electron microscopy. Denervation resulted in a reduction in histochemically determined endplate dimensions proportionate to the decrease in muscle fiber circumference. Scanning electron microscopy, on the other hand, revealed a flattening or more often collapse of primary grooves with a reduction in the width of the endplate but no longitudinal shrinkage. Primary groove area per se was not measurable due to the loss of primary groove structural integrity. Thus, the apparent histochemical diminution of endplate length after denervation was artefactual, probably due to loss of cholinesterase activity and impeded access of substrate. In disuse, cholinesterase staining revealed a similar reduction in endplate girth with fiber atrophy but with a corresponding increase in endplate length. Scanning electron microscopy of disused muscle fibers confirmed these histochemical findings and the overall preservation of primary groove area. Disuse also resulted in an increase in the number of intrasynaptic primary groove branches as visualized by scanning electron microscopy. Finally, a specialized endplate "raised area", prominent in soleus muscle, was greatly reduced after disuse but much less so after denervation. Thus, after denervation, primary groove structural integrity is lost and the shape of the endplate passively follows that dictated by circumferential loss of surface membrane. In disused muscle, presence of an intact axon preserves the structure and area but not the orientation of the primary grooves which are distorted by fiber atrophy. Disuse also strongly affects other endplate surface structures visualized by scanning electron microscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-971
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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