The technique of glycogen depletion has been used to identify the types of muscle fibres innervated by individual motor neurones in the neonatal rat. This analysis shows that neonatal motor units are highly biased in their fibre type composition, even at times when the fibres receive extensive polyneuronal innervation. This finding suggests that the innervation of muscle fibres is somehow sorted according to type during early development. This sorting does not appear to occur during the removal of the polyneuronal innervation because little, if any, increase in the bias of unit compositions occurs as the number of synapses present in the muscle is reduced 2- to 3-fold. To determine whether the sorted innervation might be explained by a selective synaptogenesis, a study was made of the type compositions of units formed by reinnervation of neonatal soleus muscle. Glycogen depletion of single units 2 weeks following crush of the soleus nerve at postnatal day 2 showed that most of them (10/12) had biased type compositions which could not be explained by a random reinnervation. The location of fibres in the reinnervated motor units suggests that the regenerating axons innervated a novel set of fibres. The differentiation of fibres into types was apparently not changed during their reinnervation. These results imply that regenerating motor neurones in the neonatal rat selectively reinnervate muscle fibre types. These and other studies further imply that the organization of fibres into motor units during normal development does not occur, as is widely believed, by a random innervation of naive fibres and their subsequent differentiation under the influence of innervation.

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