Morphology of lumbar motoneurons innervating hindlimb muscles in the turtle Pseudemys scripta elegans: an intracellular horseradish peroxidase study

J Comp Neurol. 1984 Dec 10;230(3):413-25. doi: 10.1002/cne.902300309.


Motoneurons in the turtle lumbar spinal cord, electrophysiologically identified as innervating a muscle belonging to a functional group, were injected with horseradish peroxidase by electrophoresis. A total of 45 motoneurons were reconstructed from transverse sections. Eleven motoneurons were identified as innervating knee extensor muscles, eight as innervating hip retractor and knee flexor muscles, 14 as supplying ankle and/or toe extensors, and 12 as innervating ankle and/or toe flexor muscles. The cell bodies were elongated and spindle-shaped in the transverse plane. The mean equivalent soma diameter was calculated to be 33.4 micrometers. The mean axon conduction velocity was 15.7 m/second. Significant, though rather weak, positive correlations were found between soma diameter, axon diameter, and axon conduction velocity. The axons of the reconstructed motoneurons did not reveal a recurrent axon collateral. However, a few unidentified motoneurons did possess such collaterals. The dendritic trees were restricted to the ipsilateral side of the cord, but reached out in lateral, ventral, and ventromedial directions to the subpial surface. Easily recognizable and characteristic dendrites were found both in the dorsal dendritic tree and in the dorsomedial dendritic tree. Correlations were calculated between the soma diameter and (1) the number of first-order dendrites, (2) the mean diameter of the first-order dendrites, and (3) the combined diameter of the first-order dendrites. In each case no correlations or only weak correlations were found. Fair correlations were observed between the diameter of a first-order dendrite and the number of terminal dendritic branches (r = .61) and the combined dendritic length (r = .78). However, correlations between the combined diameter of all first-order dendrites per neuron and the total number of terminal dendritic branches and the total combined dendritic length of a neuron were extremely weak. The overall appearance of turtle spinal motoneurons is comparable to that observed in other "lower" vertebrates such as frog and lizard. However, similarities are also observed between certain morphometric parameters in turtle and cat lumbar motoneurons.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Horn Cells / cytology*
  • Anterior Horn Cells / physiology
  • Axons
  • Dendrites
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Hindlimb
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Turtles / anatomy & histology*