Laryngeal muscle and motor neuron plasticity in Xenopus laevis: testicular masculinization of a developing neuromuscular system. Academic Article uri icon


  • In Xenopus laevis, the sexual differentiation of the neuromuscular system responsible for courtship song is controlled by testicular androgen secretion. To explore the sensitivity of this system to androgenic stimulation, male and female frogs were gonadectomized and given testis transplants at seven different developmental stages between the end of metamorphosis and adulthood, grown to sexual maturity, and the laryngeal muscle fibers and motor axons were counted. Muscle fiber and axon numbers in males were not affected by the testicular transplant at any stage. In females, testicular transplants at all developmental stages increased muscle fiber numbers in adulthood. Values attained were, however, significantly less than those of adult intact or testis-transplanted males. Testis transplantation increased laryngeal axon numbers in females to levels equivalent to those of intact males; this effect was obtained at every stage of postmetamorphic development including adulthood. To further explore androgen regulation in adults, males and females were gonadectomized and implanted with silicone tubes containing testosterone propionate for 1.5-3 years and laryngeal muscle fibers and axon numbers compared to those of gonadectomized or sham-operated adult controls. Neither treatment with exogenous androgen nor gonadectomy had any effect on laryngeal muscle fiber or axon number in either males or females; values did not differ from those of sham-operated controls. We conclude that testicular secretions can induce laryngeal muscle fiber and axon addition in females throughout postmetamorphic life. This degree of plasticity, exhibited after the period when adult values are normally attained, stands in contrast to the effects of administration of synthetic androgen and suggests that the degree of plasticity in adult females may be underestimated if exogenous hormones rather than testicular transplants are provided.

publication date

  • December 1993