To what extent do motor and sensory nerve fibres depend on one another for guidance during the development of peripheral nerve patterns? This question has been examined by looking at the paths taken by sensory nerve fibres growing into the embryonic chick wing in the absence of motor axons. The precursors of the motoneurones were destroyed by irradiating the appropriate part of the neural tube with a focused beam of ultraviolet light, before axons had grown out. The limb nerve patterns seen 5 to 7 days later revealed that sensory fibres followed the usual paths of main nerve trunks and formed cutaneous nerve branches in an almost normal way. However, the sensory fibres did not take the paths where muscle nerve branches are normally seen. Apparently, sensory axons for the most part do not depend on motor axons for guidance, except in the case of proprioceptive fibres, which require guidance from motor axons over the final steps of their path into muscle.

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