Maintenance of transmitter release from neuromuscular junctions with different patterns of usage "in vivo"

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The basic mechanisms underlying chemically-mediated neurotransmission at synapses are well established. Synaptic vesicles release their contents of neurotransmitter by exocytosis, and are then recycled and refilled before re-priming for re-release. It is less clear, however, what determines the differences in the quantitative aspects of this process at synapses with different in vivo activity patterns, and the extent to which they can be adapted to changing patterns of usage. The neuromuscular junction is particularly suited to investigations of these issues, due to the presence of distinctive muscle fibre types, with well-differentiated physiological roles and hence, activity patterns. The relative accessibility of NMJs means that chronic recording and manipulation of in vivo activity patterns of single motor neurones are possible. Several laboratories around the world now examining how transmitter release at NMJs is adapted to maintain (or not) release under these identified activity patterns. This review will cover the current state of knowledge and briefly highlight areas where more research is required. For example, current knowledge is largely derived from invertebrate preparations, indicating a need for more detailed comparisons at mammalian NMJs with different activity patterns. Finally, it is not yet clear in any species whether adaptations observed with imposed activity can be driven to complete transformation, with appropriate stimulus regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-487
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number5-8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • skeletal-muscle fibers
  • motor-nerve terminals
  • transversus abdominus muscle
  • Eaton myasthenic syndrome
  • membrane active zones
  • long-term adaptation
  • rat fast-twitch
  • impulse activity
  • crayfish motoneuron
  • garter snake
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons
  • Neuromuscular Junction
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Species Specificity


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