Topological differences along mammalian motor nerve terminals for spontaneous and alpha-Bungarotoxin-induced sprouting


  • M. A. Lanuza
  • J. Tomás
  • M. Santafé
  • M. R. Fenoll Brunet
  • N. García


nerve terminal sprouting, neuronal plasticity, neuromuscular junction, neurotoxins, mice


Spontaneous sproutings can be observed in end plates from normal adult vertebrate muscles and motor end plates develop increased growth signs and sprouts when target muscle cells become less active or paralysed. Nevertheless, very little is known about where in the motor nerve terminal arborization spontaneous and experimentally induced sprouts originate, their similarities and differences and also about their final maturation or elimination. In this study we investigate the topological properties of both spontaneous and alpha-bungarotoxin-induced sprouts (during different periods of intoxication and after recovery) along the motor nerve terminal branches of the Levator auris longus muscle of Swiss mice (between 48- 169 day old).

Muscles were processed for immunocytochemistry to simultaneously detect postsynaptic AChRs and axons. This procedurk permits us to make an accurate identification of the fine sprouts and a morphometric study of the presynaptic branching pattern profile in control muscles, during the toxin action and after recovery from paralysis.

The results show that in normal muscles, the initial and trunk segments (those between branch points) of the terminal arborization sprouted proportionally more branches when taking their relative lengths into account than the distal free-end segments. In contrast, every micrometer of alpha-bungarotoxin-treated muscles throughout the full terminal arborization have the same probability of generating a sprout. Moreover, the toxininduced sprouts can consolidate as new branches once recovered from the paralysis without changing the total length of the nerve terminal arborization.