Origin of specific synaptic types in the motoneuron neuropil of the monkey


  • Supported by a grant from the United States Public Health Service, NB 07935 from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.


An attempt has been made to establish, so far as possible, the specific types of synaptic bulbs on motoneurons which arise from extrinsic (descending and dorsal root) and intrinsic sources (interneurons). This has involved the laborious analysis of thousands of electron micrographs of material from normal motoneuron neuropil, and motoneuron neuropil of animals with lesions of spinal tracts, spinal roots, and motor cortex.

Our studies have established that the large synaptic bulbs on dendrites, which are the only type in the spinal cord to possess pre-synaptic synapses (serial synapses), are derived from monosynaptic dorsal root fibers (R bulbs). The presynaptic component of the serial synapse appeared to degenerate at levels below spinal cord transections (P bulbs). By means of transections of spinal cord we have found that descending fibers in the spinal cord terminate as one of at least two distinct classes of synaptic bulbs, one with spheroid synaptic vesicles (S) and one with flattened vesicles (F). There is evidence from several sources that the first type may often be excitatory in function and the second type inhibitory. Only synaptic bulbs with spheroid vesicles show definite signs of degeneration after lesions of the opposite motor cortex. The large (L) synaptic bulbs on motoneuron somata, associated with subsynaptic cisterns, are clearly not derived from the descending systems, or from posterior root fibers.