Topographic comparison of neuromuscular junctions in mouse slow and fast twitch muscles

M. A. Fahim, J. A. Holley, N. Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The neuromuscular junctions of mammalian slow and fast twitch muscles are activated differently in vivo and show corresponding physiological differences in vitro, but the structural basis or consequences of these differences are relatively unexplored. Therefore, neuromuscular junctions of mouse fast (extensor digitorum longus) and slow (soleus) twitch muscles were compared by use of new scanning and light microscopy techniques. In both muscles, the endplate appeared as an elliptical area raised to a variable extent above the surrounding sarcolemma and containing the primary clefts. In most soleus endplates, this raised surface area was considerably higher and wider and about three times larger than in extensor digitorum longus. In addition, the primary cleft area was about two-fold greater in soleus than in extensor digitorum longus, even though cleft length was the same. The primary clefts formed either an elliptical shape along the outer margin of the endplate with inward-directed branches or a group of relatively rectilinear dendritic branches orthogonally oriented to one another. The latter type was most frequent in soleus and the elliptical type in extensor digitorum longus. Corresponding patterns of nerve terminal arborizations were seen by light microscopy. Although nerve terminal areas were the same in fast and slow muscles, in the former, numerous diverticulae significantly increased the length of the nerve terminal outline. The possible physiological significance of the different synaptic structure of slow and fast muscle is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-231,233-235
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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