The mormyrid brainstem-II. The medullary electromotor relay nucleus: An ultrastructural horseradish peroxidase study

K. Elekes, M. Ravaille, C. C. Bell, S. Libouban, T. Szabo

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Abstract

The medullary relay nucleus of the mormyrid weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii is a stage in the command pathway for the electric organ discharge. It receives input from the presumed command or pacemaker nucleus and projects to the electromotoneurons in the spinal cord. Its fine structure and synaptology were investigated by electron microscopy. The origin of the terminals contacting the cell membrane of the neurons of this nucleus was determined by horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injections into different brain structures, namely into the bulbar command- and mesencephalic command-associated nuclei. Twenty-five to thirty large cells of about 45 μm in diameter constitute the medullary electromotor relay. Each cell has a kidney-shaped, lobulated nucleus, a large myelinated axon with a short initial segment and several long, richly arborizing primary dendrites. Many, if not all, cells are interconnected with large somatosomatic or dendrosomatic, dendrodendritic and dendroaxonic gap junctions. These junctions often occur in serial or triadic arrangements. The relay cells receive large club endings as well as small boutons. The club endings are found mainly on the soma and primary dendrites and are morphologically mixed synapses. The boutons are characterized by synapses which are only chemical and are distributed all over the cell membrane, but with a definitely higher frequency on secondary dendrites and more distal parts of dendritic processes. Horseradish peroxidase injections into the mesencephalic command-associated nucleus reveal a large number of labelled boutons on the secondary dendrites of the relay cells. Injections into the bulbar command-associated nucleus label the same type of boutons as mesencephalic injections, but also label club endings on relay cell soma and primary dendrites. The results support the conclusion made on the basis of previous light microscopical observations that boutons originate from the bulbar commandassociated nucleus, whereas the club endings issue from the presumed pacemaker nucleus (nucleus c). The club endings of the bifurcating axons of this nucleus are labelled by retro- and anterograde transport of horseradish peroxidase; the bifurcating axons project simultaneously to the bulbar command-associated nucleus and the medullary relay nucleus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-429
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1985

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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