Nonhomogeneous excitatory synapses of a crab stomach muscle

J Neurobiol. 1978 Jan;9(1):17-28. doi: 10.1002/neu.480090103.


Neuromuscular synapses of pyloric muscle P1 in the blue crab Callinectes sapidus were examined using electrophysiological and electron microscopic methods. The muscle is innervated by a single excitatory axon of the stomatogastric ganglion. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials show striking facilitation at very low frequencies of stimulation, indicating very slow decay of the facilitation process after a single nerve impulse. Quantal content of transmitter release at a low frequency of stimulation averaged 1.5. Evidence was obtained that not all synapses on a muscle fiber are equivalent. This was particularly evident at the morphological level in serially sectioned nerve terminals. On each nerve terminal examined, a wide range of synapse sizes was found. Synaptic contact areas ranged from less than 0.5 micron2 to almost 10 micron2; the latter value is large compared with those obtained for other crustacean neuromuscular synapses. Most of the smaller synapses lacked the presynaptic dense bodies which are putative release sites for the transmitter substance. The larger synapses all had presynaptic dense bodies, and some showed evidence of splitting apart into smaller subunits. It is postulated that about half the morphologically identified synapses are relatively inactive.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Brachyura / anatomy & histology
  • Brachyura / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Pylorus / innervation
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure