A HRP study of the relation between cell size and motor unit type in cat ankle extensor motoneurons

J Comp Neurol. 1982 Jul 20;209(1):17-28. doi: 10.1002/cne.902090103.


The dimensions of the somata and stem dendrites of 57 alpha- and three gamma-motoneurons, identified as to motor unit type and labeled by intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase, were measured in the triceps surae and plantaris motor pools. The somata of type S motoneurons tended to be smaller (mean diameter 47.9 micrometers) than those of FF and FR units (52.5 and 53.1 micrometer, respectively) but these mean values were not significantly different and the data distributions showed considerable overlap between the unit types. The mean numbers and diameters of stem dendrites exhibited somewhat larger differences related to motor unit type and some of these were statistically significant. The total membrane area (AN) of each cell was estimated from measurements of the soma and stem dendrites, by using recent data and Ulfhake and Kellerth ('81) to calculate the membrane area of a dendritic tree from stem dendrite diameter. Mean AN varied with motor unit type in the sequence FF greater than FR greater than S (average values: 369 X 100(3) micrometers 2, 323 X 100(3) micrometers 2, and 250 X 100(3) micrometers 2, respectively). There was covariation between AN and the conduction velocity of the motor axon as well as with the force output from the muscle unit. Comparison of AN and motoneuron input resistance (RN) in 19 alpha-motoneurons suggested that the specific resistivity of the cell membrane in type S motoneurons was systematically higher than that characteristic of type FF or FR motoneurons.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cats
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*