Distribution of neuromuscular junctions in laryngeal and syringeal muscles in vertebrates

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Abstract

Vertebrates are capable of producing a variable sound spectrum. In mammals, lissamphibia, and reptiles, the larynx is the vocal organ responsible for sound production, whereas in birds it is produced by the syrinx, an avian organ located at the base of trachea. The distribution of neuromuscular junctions responsible for the fine control of laryngeal muscle (LM) and syringeal muscle (SM), although studied with some detail in human LM, remains mostly unknown in other vertebrates. In the present study, we analyzed the distribution of motor end plates (MEPs) in LM/SM of different vertebrate classes using the histochemical detection of acetylcholinesterase: the thyroarytenoid and cricoarytenoid LM of mammal (human, rat, and rabbit) and cricoarytenoid LM of nonmammalian (frog and avian) species and the tracheobronchial SM of rooster and pigeon. In humans and frogs/avians, MEPs were distributed diffusely along, respectively, the thyroarytenoid-cricoarytenoid and the cricoarytenoid LM fibers, whereas in rats and rabbits, MEPs were concentrated in a transverse band located in the middle of thyroarytenoid and cricoarytenoid muscle fibers. In roosters and pigeons, MEPs were distributed diffusely along SM fibers. The highly diffuse MEP distribution along human thyroarytenoid and cricoarytenoid fibers indicates that these muscles can markedly change their degree of contraction, which may contribute for the large range of different sounds produced by human vocal folds. The same rationale was applied to discuss the possible functional significance of the morphological distribution of MEPs along the LM/SM of the other vertebrates analyzed. Anat Rec Part A, © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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