Structure and distribution of neuromuscular junctions on slow muscle fibers in the frog. Academic Article uri icon


  • Neuromuscular junctions on slow fibers in frog cruralis muscle have been examined with light and electron microscopy. The slow fiber bundle of this muscle is approximately half slow fibers and half fast twitch fibers. Each slow fiber has two-five clusters of nerve terminals in its central region. In contrast, fast fibers in the same bundle have single anastomosing neuromuscular junctions. The average length of terminal clusters on slow fibers is half that of the terminals on fast fibers. Less cholinesterase activity is associated with nerve terminals on slow muscle fibers. The two types of muscle fiber were identified in freeze-fracture replicas by characteristic patterns of the sarcolemmal caveolae and square arrays. Presynaptic membranes of terminals on fast fibers have long, paired double rows of intramembrane particles which lie along the sides of ridges aligned above each fold in the muscle. Ridges are less prominent or absent in terminals on slow fibers and the associated membrane particles are more often in single rows. The lengths of the particle rows also tend to be shorter and rows tend to branch and to lie at various orientations with respect to the longitudinal axis of the terminal. The average length of the particle rows per unit length of nerve terminal on slow fiber terminals is half that of particle rows on fast fiber terminals. It is concluded that the total length as well as the concentration of these active zone specializations is less at terminals on slow fibers. The lack of parallel orientation of the presynaptic active zones at slow fiber terminals corresponds to a lack of postsynaptic folds. Postsynaptic specializations seen in thin sections through slow fibers are either on flat expanses of sarcolemma or on low sarcolemmal bulges. Patches of large intramembrane particles, similar to those on fast fibers, mark regions of postsynaptic specialization in freeze-fracture replicas of slow fibers.

publication date

  • June 1984