To examine the role of postsynaptic activity in regulating the rate of neuromuscular synapse elimination, contractile activity of neonatal rabbit soleus muscles was decreased by chronic superfusion of alpha-bungarotoxin (alpha-BGT) over their surfaces. Superfusion was begun at 6 days postnatal and continued for a variable duration (2 to 5 days) before muscles were analyzed. The percentage of polyinnervated fibers was assessed both physiologically and anatomically for alpha-BGT-treated muscles and their contralateral muscles, in addition to normal and control muscles of the same age. Within muscles exposed to alpha-BGT, polyinnervation was significantly greater than that for muscles from each of the control groups. The anatomical assay further revealed that the retention of polyinnervation in alpha-BGT-treated muscles was most pronounced near the muscle's surface, although end plates at the center were also affected. This finding, coupled with evidence that only a small percentage of the muscle fibers were completely inactivated, suggests that the activity block was also most pronounced near the surface and relatively low at the muscle's center. The percentage of end plates at which synapse elimination was delayed was greater than the estimated percentage whose activity was completely blocked, suggesting that synapse loss was slowed even in muscle fibers retaining some postsynaptic activity. These observations indicate that the rate of synapse elimination depends on the levels of functional acetylcholine receptors. This process could be mediated in a graded fashion by changes in postsynaptic activity (subthreshold or suprathreshold) or by a nonelectrical effect of blocking postsynaptic receptors.