Ultrastructural features of neuromuscular junctions in the stapedius muscle of Gallus gallus

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Abstract

The ultrastructure of neuromuscular junctions in the twitch fibers of the stapedius muscle of Gallus gallus (domesticus) was investigated as part of a series of neurophysiological studies. Among the morphological features observed were elongated end-plates with numerous large and clear synaptic vesicles mixed with larger dense core vesicles and irregular or aperiodic “active sites” in the presynaptic membrane where synaptic vesicles were focused. The most remarkable features of these junctions were large synaptic clefts (50-80 nm) and the absence of junctional folds in the sarcolemmal surface. Unlike the large periodic junctional folds seen in the neuromuscular junctions of frogs and in the fast twitch fibers of the mammalian stapedius, the preparations studied only show small aperiodic invaginations (primitive folds) in the postsynaptic membranes. This morphological feature remains essentially constant from newly hatched to adult chickens. While these smooth junctions are consistent with earlier findings of inconspicuous junctional folds in the twitch fibers of the chicken posterior latissimus dorsi they are unlike those seen in the fast twitch fibers of the mammalian stapedius muscle, or other twitch fibers in general. The morphological findings of the present study may also suggest that the simple, unmodified neuromuscular junctions in the stapedius of Gallus may be a useful preparation for studies of synaptic membrane structures that employ the freeze-fracture technique.

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