Sexual differentiation and hormonal regulation of the laryngeal synapse in Xenopus laevis. Academic Article uri icon


  • In Xenopus laevis frogs, sex differences in adult laryngeal synapses contribute to sex differences in vocal behavior. This study explores the development of sex differences in types of neuromuscular synapses and the development and hormone regulation of sex differences in transmitter release. Synapses in the juvenile larynx have characteristics not found in adults: juvenile muscle fibers can produce subthreshold or suprathreshold potentials in response to the same strength of nerve stimulation and can also produce multiple spikes to a single nerve stimulus. Juvenile laryngeal muscle also contains the same synapse types (I, II, and III) as are found in adult laryngeal muscle. The distribution of laryngeal synapse types in juveniles is less sexually dimorphic than the distribution in adults. Analysis of quantal content indicates that laryngeal synapses characteristically release low amounts of transmitter prior to sexual differentiation. Quantal content values from male and female juveniles are similar to values for adult males and are lower than values for adult females. When juveniles are gonadectomized and treated with exogenous estrogen, quantal content values increase significantly, suggesting that this hormone may increase transmitter release at laryngeal synapses during development. Gonadectomy alone does not affect quantal content of laryngeal synapses in either sex. Androgen treatment decreases quantal content in juvenile females but not males; the effect is opposite to and smaller than that of estrogen. Thus, muscle fiber responses to nerve stimulation and transmitter release are not sexually dimorphic in juvenile larynges. Transmitter release is strengthened, or feminized, by the administration of estradiol, an ovarian steroid hormone.

publication date

  • December 1995