Synapses on motoneuron dendrites in the brachial section of the frog spinal cord

a computer-aided electron microscopic study of cobalt-filled cells

M. Antal, R. Kraftsik, G. Székely, H. Van Der Loos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Cobalt-labelled motoneuron dendrites of the frog spinal cord at the level of the second spinal nerve were photographed in the electron microscope from long series of ultrathin sections. Three-dimensional computer reconstructions of 120 dendrite segments were analysed. The samples were taken from two locations: proximal to cell body and distal, as defined in a transverse plane of the spinal cord. The dendrites showed highly irregular outlines with many 1-2 μm-long 'thorns' (on average 8.5 thorns per 100 μm2 of dendritic area). Taken together, the reconstructed dendrite segments from the proximal sites had a total length of about 250 μm; those from the distal locations, 180 μm. On all segments together there were 699 synapses. Nine percent of the synapses were on thorns, and many more close to their base on the dendritic shaft. The synapses were classified in four groups. One third of the synapses were asymmetric with spherical vesicles; one half were symmetric with spherical vesicles; and one tenth were symmetric with flattened vesicles. A fourth, small class of asymmetric synapses had dense-core vesicles. The area of the active zones was large for the asymmetric synapses (median value 0.20 μm2), and small for the symmetric ones (median value 0.10 μm2), and the difference was significant. On average, the areas of the active zones of the synapses on thin dendrites were larger than those of synapses on large calibre dendrites. About every 4 μm2 of dendritic area received one contact. There was a significant difference between the areas of the active zones of the synapses at the two locations. Moreover, the number per unit dendritic length was correlated with dendrite calibre. On average, the active zones covered more than 4% of the dendritic area; this value for thin dendrites was about twice as large as that of large calibre dendrites. We suggest that the larger active zones and the larger synaptic coverage of the thin dendrites compensate for the longer electrotonic distance of these synapses from the soma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-49
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1992

Fingerprint

Motor Neurons
Dendrites
Cobalt
Anura
Synapses
Spinal Cord
Arm
Electrons
Electrical Synapses
Spinal Nerves
Secretory Vesicles
Carisoprodol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology
  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Synapses on motoneuron dendrites in the brachial section of the frog spinal cord : a computer-aided electron microscopic study of cobalt-filled cells. / Antal, M.; Kraftsik, R.; Székely, G.; Van Der Loos, H.

In: Journal of Neurocytology, Vol. 21, No. 1, 01.1992, p. 34-49.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "Cobalt-labelled motoneuron dendrites of the frog spinal cord at the level of the second spinal nerve were photographed in the electron microscope from long series of ultrathin sections. Three-dimensional computer reconstructions of 120 dendrite segments were analysed. The samples were taken from two locations: proximal to cell body and distal, as defined in a transverse plane of the spinal cord. The dendrites showed highly irregular outlines with many 1-2 μm-long 'thorns' (on average 8.5 thorns per 100 μm2 of dendritic area). Taken together, the reconstructed dendrite segments from the proximal sites had a total length of about 250 μm; those from the distal locations, 180 μm. On all segments together there were 699 synapses. Nine percent of the synapses were on thorns, and many more close to their base on the dendritic shaft. The synapses were classified in four groups. One third of the synapses were asymmetric with spherical vesicles; one half were symmetric with spherical vesicles; and one tenth were symmetric with flattened vesicles. A fourth, small class of asymmetric synapses had dense-core vesicles. The area of the active zones was large for the asymmetric synapses (median value 0.20 μm2), and small for the symmetric ones (median value 0.10 μm2), and the difference was significant. On average, the areas of the active zones of the synapses on thin dendrites were larger than those of synapses on large calibre dendrites. About every 4 μm2 of dendritic area received one contact. There was a significant difference between the areas of the active zones of the synapses at the two locations. Moreover, the number per unit dendritic length was correlated with dendrite calibre. On average, the active zones covered more than 4{\%} of the dendritic area; this value for thin dendrites was about twice as large as that of large calibre dendrites. We suggest that the larger active zones and the larger synaptic coverage of the thin dendrites compensate for the longer electrotonic distance of these synapses from the soma.",
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