Ultrastructure of neuromuscular junctions in Drosophila: comparison of wild type and mutants with increased excitability

J Neurobiol. 1993 Aug;24(8):1025-44. doi: 10.1002/neu.480240804.


The ventral longitudinal muscles of the Drosophila larval body wall are innervated by at least four types of synaptic terminals that can be distinguished on morphological grounds at the light microscopical level. The innervation of these muscles has been previously shown to be regulated by neuronal activity. In this report we investigate the ultrastructural basis for synaptic bouton differences by using serial sections, and examine the structure of synaptic terminals in mutants with increased excitability. We report that individual identifiable muscle fibers are innervated by terminals containing two to three types of synaptic boutons that can be distinguished in terms of synaptic vesicle population, presynaptic and postsynaptic specialization, and general shape. We propose a model to account for the bouton types observed at the light microscopical level. We find that in the hyperexcitable mutant eag Sh, there are dramatic ultrastructural alterations at synaptic boutons. These alterations include a partial depletion of two types of synaptic vesicles and a change in appearance of a third type, changes in number and appearance of synaptic densities, and the presence of multivesicular bodies. Our results show that an increase in neuronal excitability produces profound effects in synaptic terminal structure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila melanogaster / anatomy & histology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Larva
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mutation*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure