Light microscopic observations of the contacts made between two spindle afferent types and alpha-motoneurons in the cat trigeminal motor nucleus

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Oct 21;374(3):436-50. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19961021)374:3<436::AID-CNE8>3.0.CO;2-2.


Previous studies indicate that cat jaw-muscle spindle afferents can be divided into two types (type I and II) on the basis of their axonal trajectories. The present study examined the relationship between spindle afferent fibers and their target masseter alpha-motoneurons in the cat by using the intracellular horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injection technique, and provided several new findings on the synaptic organization generated between the two. Five type I afferent fiber-motoneuron pairs and nine type II afferent-motoneuron pairs were well stained with HRP. The following conclusions were drawn: 1) A motoneuron received contacts from only one collateral of any given spindle afferent. 2) The number of contacts made between an afferent and a motoneuron ranged from one to three. 3) The contacts made by a spindle afferent were on the same dendrite or dendrites branching from the same primary dendrite. 4) The vast majority of the contacts made by an afferent on a motoneuron were distributed in the dendritic tree within 600 microns from the soma, i.e., in the proximal three fourths of the dendritic tree. The differences observed between the two afferent types were as follows. First, type II afferent terminals made contacts on more distal dendrites of the motoneurons than did type I afferent terminals. Second, the contacts made between a type I afferent and a motoneuron were clustered together, but those made between a type II afferent and a motoneuron were widely dispersed. The present results provided the general rules of synaptic contacts between the spindle afferents and masseter alpha-motoneurons, and demonstrated that the spatial distribution of synaptic contacts on the dendritic tree was different between type I and type II afferents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle / innervation
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / cytology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / physiology*


  • Horseradish Peroxidase