Fibre type composition of single motor units during synapse elimination in neonatal rat soleus muscle

Abstract

Skeletal motor neurones innervate the specialized ‘types’ of fibres comprising most mammalian muscles in a characteristic fashion: each motor neurone forms a ‘motor unit’ by innervating a set of fibres all of the same type1–4. Because the type expression of adult muscle fibres is plastic and apparently controlled by their innervation, each motor neurone is thought to impose a common type differentiation on all the fibres in its motor unit4–6. However, the situation in developing muscles cannot be this simple. Muscle fibres in neonates receive synaptic input from several motor neurones and achieve the adult, single innervation only after a period of ‘synapse elimination’7,8. Despite this polyneuronal innervation, differentiated fibre types are present in neonatal muscles9–14. This means either that the motor neurones polyne-uronally innervate fibres in a random fashion and type expression is not determined by innervation or that the polyneuronal innervation is ordered in such a way that each fibre could receive unambiguous instructions for type differentiation. We have investigated these possibilities here by determining the fibre type composition of motor units in neonatal rat soleus muscle. We find that even during the time of poly neuronal innervation each motor neurone confines its innervation to largely one of two fibre types present in the muscle. Therefore, some mechanism during early development segregates the synapses of two groups of soleus motor neurones onto two separate populations of soleus muscle fibres.

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Thompson, W., Sutton, L. & Riley, D. Fibre type composition of single motor units during synapse elimination in neonatal rat soleus muscle. Nature 309, 709–711 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1038/309709a0

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