Ultrastructural features of neuromuscular junction formation and transverse tubule development were studied utilizing a newly developed model in which human muscle fibres cultured in monolayer are innervated by foetal rat spinal cord with dorsal root ganglia attached. At early innervation (7-10 days), when distinct 'boutons' are contacting muscle fibres, the contacts of nerve terminals with the muscle fibres are, ultrastructurally, superficial and unorganized, and there is no basal lamina-like material between nerve terminals and muscle fibres. A bouton consists, ultrastructurally, of a cluster of small nerve terminals contacting the muscle fibre. At 2-3 weeks of innervation, shallow 'beds' are formed on the muscle fibre just beneath nerve terminals, and occasionally there are irregular and miniscule fragments of basal lamina-like material in the cleft. There is no Schwann cell apposing the nerve terminal at this stage of innervation. After 4-5 weeks of innervation there is more definite basal lamina material in the cleft and suggestive postsynaptic plasmalemmal densities and invaginations. However, there is no Schwann cell apposing the nerve terminal at this stage. At 6-8 weeks of innervation, deep postsynaptic folds are present, a Schwann cell apposes the nerve terminal, and basal lamina surrounds the entire muscle fibre. At all four stages of innervation examined, ultrastructural cytochemistry of alpha-bungarotoxin binding reveals that nicotinic ACh receptors are located exclusively at the neuromuscular junctions. After 1-2 weeks of innervation, very few lanthanum-positive transverse tubules are observed and only in close proximity to the surface membrane. After 3 weeks of innervation, more lanthanum-positive tubules are present, and they are located deeper within the muscle fibre. Five weeks after innervation, somewhat more elaborated tubules (but no lateral sacs) appear, and honeycomb structures are often present. After 6-7 weeks of innervation the tubular system is very elaborate and lateral sacs are present. Hence, this study describes consecutive stages of the formation of neuromuscular junctions and transverse tubules in innervated cultured human muscle, and provides an important basis to which similar studies related to the diseased human muscle can be compared.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology