Building neuromuscular junctions in vitro

Development. 2020 Nov 16;147(22):dev193920. doi: 10.1242/dev.193920.


The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) has been the model of choice to understand the principles of communication at chemical synapses. Following groundbreaking experiments carried out over 60 years ago, many studies have focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying the development and physiology of these synapses. This Review summarizes the progress made to date towards obtaining faithful models of NMJs in vitro We provide a historical approach discussing initial experiments investigating NMJ development and function from Xenopus to mice, the creation of chimeric co-cultures, in vivo approaches and co-culture methods from ex vivo and in vitro derived cells, as well as the most recent developments to generate human NMJs. We discuss the benefits of these techniques and the challenges to be addressed in the future for promoting our understanding of development and human disease.

Keywords: Human pluripotent stem cells; In vitro models; Neuromuscular junctions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism*