In Drosophila, the type I motor terminals innervating the larval ventral longitudinal muscle fibers 6 and 7 have been the most popular preparation for combining synaptic studies with genetics. We have further characterized the normal morphological and physiological properties of these motor terminals and the influence of muscle size on terminal morphology. Using dye-injection and physiological techniques, we show that the two axons supplying these terminals have different innervation patterns: axon 1 innervates only muscle fibers 6 and 7, whereas axon 2 innervates all of the ventral longitudinal muscle fibers. This difference in innervation pattern allows the two axons to be reliably identified. The terminals formed by axons 1 and 2 on muscle fibers 6 and 7 have the same number of branches; however, axon 2 terminals are approximately 30% longer than axon 1 terminals, resulting in a corresponding greater number of boutons for axon 2. The axon 1 boutons are approximately 30% wider than the axon 2 boutons. The excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) produced by axon 1 is generally smaller than that produced by axon 2, although the size distributions show considerable overlap. Consistent with vertebrate studies, there is a correlation between muscle fiber size and terminal size. For a single axon, terminal area and length, the number of terminal branches, and the number of boutons are all correlated with muscle fiber size, but bouton size is not. During prolonged repetitive stimulation, axon 2 motor terminals show synaptic depression, whereas axon 1 EPSPs facilitate. The response to repetitive stimulation appears to be similar at all motor terminals of an axon.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.