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J Comp Neurol August 30, 1999; 411 (3): 472-86.
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Motoneurons of the axial swimming muscles in hatchling Xenopus tadpoles: features, distribution, and central synapses.

Roberts A , Walford A , Soffe SR , Yoshida M .

Xenopus tadpole motoneurons make cholinergic synapses within the spinal cord. This excitation changes with longitudinal position and contributes to the excitation that controls motor activity and its longitudinal spread during swimming. To explore the anatomic constraints on this excitation, backfilling has been used to examine the anatomy and distribution of the whole population of spinal motoneurons, to define the extent of their central axons and to find where they make synapses. Motoneuron features show considerable variation but do not allow their separation into primary and secondary. Most motoneurons have descending central axons and it is likely that central synapses are made from these axons as longitudinal dendritic extent is very limited. Motoneuron density reaches a broad plateau over the mid-trunk region at 12-13 per 100 microm. Soma size does not change with longitudinal position, but the dorsoventral extent of the dendrites decreases caudally, whereas the central axon length increases. Motoneuron distribution data were used to estimate the longitudinal distribution of central motoneuron axons. This has a broad plateau at 12-14 per 100 microm over much of the trunk and only decreases significantly caudal to the anus. This distribution correlates with cholinergic excitation during swimming. Transmission electron microscopy of motoneurons backfilled with horseradish peroxidase was used to show that central motoneuron axons make en passant synapses with motoneuron dendrites and the dendrites of other unstained neurons. By using measures of synapse frequency and total dendrite length, trunk motoneurons are estimated to each receive 100-200 synapses.

PubMed ID: 10413780
Article link: J Comp Neurol
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