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Investigation of neuromuscular abnormalities in neurotrophin-3-deficient mice


Dr P. W. Sheard, as above.


Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) is a trophic factor that is essential for the normal development and maintenance of proprioceptive sensory neurons and is widely implicated as an important modulator of synaptic function and development. We have previously found that animals lacking NT-3 have a number of structural abnormalities in peripheral nerves and skeletal muscles. Here we investigated whether haploinsufficiency-induced reduction in NT-3 resulted in impaired neuromuscular performance and synaptic function. Motor nerve terminal function was tested by monitoring the uptake/release of the fluorescent membrane dye FM1-43 by the electrophysiological examination of synaptic transmission and electron microscopic determination of synaptic vesicle density at the presynaptic active zone. We investigated skeletal muscle form and function by measuring force in response to both nerve-mediated and direct muscle stimulation and by quantification of fiber number and area from transverse sections. Synaptic transmission was not markedly different between the two groups, although the uptake and release of FM1-43 were impaired in mature NT-3-deficient mice but not in immature mice. The electron microscopic examination of mature nerve terminals showed no genotype-dependent variation in the number of synaptic vesicles near the active zone. NT-3+/− mice had normal soleus muscle fiber numbers but their fibers had smaller cross-sectional areas and were more densely-packed than wild-type littermates. Moreover, the muscles of adult NT-3-deficient animals were weaker than those of wild-type animals to both nerve and direct muscle stimulation. The results indicate that a reduction in NT-3 availability during development impairs motor nerve terminal maturation and synaptic vesicle recycling and leads to a reduction in muscle fiber diameter.