Presynaptic to postsynaptic relationships of the neuromuscular junction are held constant across age and muscle fiber type
The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) displays considerable morphological plasticity as a result of differences in activity level, as well as aging. This is true of both presynaptic and postsynaptic components of the NMJ. Yet, despite these variations in NMJ structure, proper presynaptic to postsynaptic coupling must be maintained in order for effective cell-to-cell communication to occur. Here, we examined the NMJs of muscles with different activity profiles (soleus and EDL), on both slow- and fast-twitch fibers in those muscles, and among young adult and aged animals. We used immunofluorescent techniques to stain nerve terminal branching, presynaptic vesicles, postsynaptic receptors, as well as fast/slow myosin heavy chain. Confocal microscopy was used to capture images of NMJs for later quantitative analysis. Data were subjected to a two-way ANOVA (main effects for myofiber type and age), and in the event of a significant (p<0.05) F ratio, a post hoc analysis was performed to identify pairwise differences. Results showed that the NMJs of different myofiber types routinely displayed differences in presynaptic and postsynaptic morphology (although the effect on NMJ size was reversed in the soleus and the EDL), but presynaptic to postsynaptic relationships were tightly maintained. Moreover, the ratio of presynaptic vesicles relative to nerve terminal branch length also was similar despite differences in muscles, their fiber type, and age. Thus, in the face of considerable overall structural differences of the NMJ, presynaptic to postsynaptic coupling remains constant, as does the relationship between presynaptic vesicles and the nerve terminal branches that support them. (c) 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.