December 2009
Volume 50, Issue 12
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Eye Movements, Strabismus, Amblyopia and Neuro-ophthalmology  |   December 2009
Ultrastructural and Molecular Biologic Comparison of Classic Proprioceptors and Palisade Endings in Sheep Extraocular Muscles
Author Notes
  • From the Center of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Integrative Morphology Group, Medical University Vienna, Vienna, Austria 
  • Corresponding author: Roland Blumer, Center of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Integrative Morphology Group, Medical University Vienna, Waehringer Strasse 13, 1090 Vienna, Austria; roland.blumer@meduniwien.ac.at
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science December 2009, Vol.50, 5697-5706. doi:10.1167/iovs.09-3902
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      Stefanie Rungaldier, Stefan Heiligenbrunner, Regina Mayer, Christiane Hanefl-Krivanek, Marietta Lipowec, Johannes Streicher, Roland Blumer; Ultrastructural and Molecular Biologic Comparison of Classic Proprioceptors and Palisade Endings in Sheep Extraocular Muscles. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2009;50(12):5697-5706. doi: 10.1167/iovs.09-3902.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose.: To analyze and compare the structural and molecular features of classic proprioceptors like muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) and putative proprioceptors (palisade endings) in sheep extraocular muscle (EOMs).

Methods.: The EOMs of four sheep were analyzed. Frozen sections or wholemount preparations of the samples were immunohistochemically labeled and analyzed by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Triple labeling with different combinations of antibodies against neurofilament, synaptophysin, and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), as well as α-bungarotoxin and phalloidin, was performed. Microscopic anatomy of the nerve end organs was analyzed by transmission electron microscopy.

Results.: The microscopic anatomy demonstrated that muscle spindles and GTOs had a perineural capsule and palisade endings a connective tissue capsule. Sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles and GTOs contained only a few vesicles, whereas palisade nerve terminals were full of clear vesicles. Likewise, motor terminals in the muscle spindles' polar regions were full of clear vesicles. Immunohistochemistry showed that sensory nerve fibers as well as their sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles and GTOs were ChAT-negative. Palisade endings were supplied by ChAT-positive nerve fibers, and the palisade complexes including palisade nerve terminals were also ChAT-immunoreactive. Motor terminals in muscle spindles were ChAT and α-bungarotoxin positive.

Conclusions.: The present study demonstrated in sheep EOMs that palisade endings are innervated by cholinergic axons exhibiting characteristics typical of motoneurons, whereas muscle spindles (except the polar regions) and GTOs are supplied by noncholinergic axons. These results raise the question of whether palisade endings are candidates for proprioceptors in EOMs.

The sense of self position and movement is generally known as proprioception and is accomplished by sensory receptors located in muscles and related deep tissues. For sensory perception of the eyeball's position in its socket, extraocular muscles (EOMs) likewise carry proprioceptors that are partly the same as in skeletal muscles, such as muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTOs). 1,2 However, EOMs are also imbued with putative proprioceptors that are referred to as myotendinous cylinders or palisade endings. 311 Of interest, the occurrence of the three nerve end organs in EOMs is quite variable from species to species. Whereas muscle spindles have been detected in the EOMs of mice, 12 even-toed ungulates, 1320 some monkey species, 21 and humans, 14,2225 GTOs on the other hand have been found only in even-toed ungulates 1315,20,26 and, very rarely, in monkeys. 27 Palisade endings, again, are present in the EOMs of humans, 10,28 rhesus monkeys, 4,9,11 cats, 3,8,29,30 rats, 7 rabbits, 6 and sheep. 5  
Each of these three nerve-end organs has its unique anatomy and structure. In EOMs of even-toed ungulates, muscle spindles are composed of a perineural capsule enclosing several intrafusal muscle fibers termed nuclear chain and nuclear bag fibers. In pig EOMs, Friedrich et al. 31 show that intrafusal muscle fibers express spindle-special myosin heavy chain isoforms. Intrafusal muscle fibers are innervated by sensory nerve fibers twining around muscle fibers at the equatorial region and by motoneurons terminating on muscle fibers at the muscle spindles' poles. 13,1518 In monkey 21 and human EOMs, 2225 however, most muscle spindles do not contain any nuclear bag fibers. In addition to nuclear chain fibers, anomalous muscle fibers are regularly present in primate muscle spindles. 2225 Such anomalous fibers have peripheral myonuclei and are indistinguishable from muscle fibers outside of muscle spindles. 2225 GTOs have a more uniform appearance among EOMs of different species. 13,15,16,20,26,27 They are located at the insertion of muscle fibers into the tendons, comprised of a perineural capsule filled with collagen, and are innervated by afferent nerves. Besides collagen bundles, GTOs can contain up to five muscle fibers that either terminate in the GTO or transverse the organ from pole to pole. 13,15,16,20,26,27  
Palisade endings are nerve-end organs uniquely found in EOMs and have been demonstrated to be present in all species investigated so far. 311,14,28,29 They are located at the muscle–tendon junction and form a cuff of nerve terminals around the tip of a muscle fiber. Palisade endings arise from myelinated nerve fibers, which enter the muscle at a central nerve entrance spot. Axons proceed alongside the muscle fiber toward its ending and further into the tendon. There, the nerves form a 180° curve and return to establish nerve terminals around the muscle fiber tip. 3,511,14,28,29 In most species (cat, 8,29 sheep, 5 monkey, 4,11 and human 10 ) palisade nerve terminals establish contacts to tendons and to muscle fibers. In fact, in cats, 8,29 sheep, 5 monkeys, 4,11 and humans 10 neurotendinous contacts are more frequent, and neuromuscular contacts are observed in only a minority of the palisade endings. Palisade endings in rabbits 6 and rats 7 are an exception, because exclusively neuromuscular contacts were observed. 
Although physiological analyses on palisade endings are missing, the general opinion is that palisade endings are sensory. 1,3,7,11,28,29,3234 However, in one older study, it was demonstrated that nerve fibers supplying palisade endings originate from the EOM motor nuclei (oculomotor, trochlear, and abducens nuclei). 30 Moreover, our prior results demonstrated in cat as well as in monkey EOMs that palisade endings are formed by cholinergic nerve fibers that establish motor terminals outside of the palisade complex, as was shown in some cases in monkey. 4,8,9 In palisade endings in cats, 8 monkeys, 4 and humans, 10 it has also been shown that neuromuscular contacts have features of motor terminals. Nevertheless, the debate about the function of palisade endings is still ongoing, as to whether these structures are sensory, despite their cholinergic properties, motor, or both. 10  
If palisade endings are in fact cholinergic sensory, could it be that well-known sensory nerve structures (muscle spindles and GTOs) are as well cholinergic? The present study was conducted to answer this question. For our analysis we chose sheep, because among mammals, sheep is the only species in which muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings are commonly found in EOMs. 5,17,20,26 We investigated by immunohistochemistry different attributes of the nerve fibers and nerve terminals: We labeled the neurons with an antibody against the cytoskeletal structure protein neurofilament and, to illustrate synapses an antibody against synaptic vesicle glycoprotein, we used synaptophysin. Furthermore, to distinguish cholinergic nerve fibers, we performed labeling for ChAT, the enzyme for acetylcholine synthesis, and used fluorescently labeled α-bungarotoxin to visualize motor endplates. We used phalloidin to stain muscle fibers. We conducted fine structural analyses of muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings, to complement the molecular findings. 
Materials and Methods
All animals used in this study were treated in accordance with the ARVO Statement for the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research. Four sheep with age ranging between 6 months and 2 years were analyzed. The sheep heads were provided by a local abattoir. Organic structures were fixed by perfusion. In brief, perfusion was performed by catheterizing the internal carotid artery. First, the vascular system of the segregated head was flushed with Ringer's solution to remove blood clots, and subsequently fixation was performed by perfusion with 4% paraformaldehyde in 0.1 M phosphate buffer (PB pH 7.4). Eye bulbs with attached EOMs were removed from the head and EOMs including tendons were dissected. The tissue was immersion fixed with 4% paraformaldehyde in PB for 4 hours (for confocal laser scanning microscopy) or alternatively with 4% paraformaldehyde and 2.5% glutaraldehyde in PB (for transmission electron microscopy). EOMs were stored at 4°C submerged in 0.1 M phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) and further processed for confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). 
Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy
For CLSM, tissue was frozen in cooled (−80°C) methylbutane and stored at −80°C. Fifteen-micrometer-thick sections were cut with a cryostat microtome (CM1950; Leica, Heidelberg, Germany), mounted on gelatin-coated slides, and immunohistochemically stained. Alternatively, CLSM was performed with wholemount preparations of EOMs that were immunolabeled. Triple labeling of sections and wholemounts was performed with four different combinations of antibodies and labeling substances (Table 1). For a detailed description of the methods used, see our former publications. 8,9  
Table 1.
 
Markers and Antibodies for Immunohistochemical Triple-Staining Detection
Table 1.
 
Markers and Antibodies for Immunohistochemical Triple-Staining Detection
Triple Staining Marker for Muscle Fibers and Motor End Plates Primary Antibodies Secondary Antibodies
Phalloidin, neurofilament, synptophysin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin, CS 1:500 WM: 1:50, Molecular Probes Chicken anti-neurofilament, CS: 1:5000 WM 1:2500, Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR Goat anti-chicken Alexa Fluor 568, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Mouse anti-synaptophysin, CS: 1:400 WM 1:200, Chemicon. Temecula, CA Goat anti-mouse Alexa Fluor 488, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Phalloidin, ChAT, synaptophysin, α-bungarotoxin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin, rhodamine-conjugated α-bungarotoxin, CS: 1:500, Molecular Probes Synaptophysin, CS: 1:400, Chemicon Goat anti-mouse Alexa Fluor 488
Phalloidin, ChAT, synaptophysin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin Rabbit anti ChAT, CS: 1:500 WM: 1:250, Michael Schemann, University of Munich, Germany Goat anti-rabbit Alexa Fluor 488, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Mouse anti-synptophsin, CS: 1:400 WM 1:200 Goat anti-mouse rhodamine, 1:200, Chemicon
Phalloidin, ChAT, Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin Rabbit anti ChAT Chicken anti- Goat anti-rabbit Alexa Fluor 488
    neurofilament neurofilament Goat anti-chicken Alexa Fluor 568
Triple Labeling of Cryosections.
The presence of muscle spindles and GTOs was first verified by light microscopy on frozen EOM sections stained with either hematoxylin/eosin or azan. Once the structures were identified consecutive sections were processed for immunohistochemistry. The sections were first briefly rinsed in PBS and then blocked with 10% goat serum for 1 hour. Further on, they were incubated with a combination of two primary antibodies (Table 1) for 48 hours at 4°C, rinsed (four times, each 5 minutes) with PBS=0.1% Tween and incubated with one of the according secondary antibodies for 2 hours at 37°C. After the next washing step, the sections were incubated with the other secondary antibody and phalloidin (Table 1) for another 2 hours. Finally, the slides were again rinsed and covered with mounting medium and a coverslip. The labeled sections were first examined by UV-microscopy where the different structures were identified. Later on, the slides were analyzed by CLSM (LSM 510; Carl Zeiss Meditec, Oberkochen, Germany). Images were generated in four different channels: three fluorescence channels (excitation wave length at 488, 568, and 633 nm) and one transmission light image. 
Triple Labeling of Wholemount Preparations.
In wholemounts of the EOM myotendinous junction, palisade endings, and GTOs were analyzed. Wholemounts of EOMs were frozen and thawed, incubated in PBS containing 1% Triton (PBSTri) and then blocked with 10% goat serum in PBSTri for 2 hours. Further on, they were incubated for 48 hours with a combination of two primary antibodies (Table 1) then rinsed (7 times, each 15 minutes) with PBSTri and incubated with one secondary antibody for 4 hours and after another washing step incubated with the other secondary antibody and phalloidin over night (Table 1). At last, the wholemounts were again rinsed and mounted in vol/vol 60% glycerine=40% PBS. The labeled wholemounts were first examined by UV-microscopy and when the structures were identified, they were further analyzed by CLSM (LSM 519; Carl Zeiss Meditec). Series of longitudinal virtual CLSM sections of 0.5- to 1-μm thickness were cut through palisade endings and GTOs. Each section was photodocumented and three-dimensional projections were formulated on computer (LSM Image Examiner software; Carl Zeiss Meditec). Images were generated in three different fluorescence channels: excitation wave lengths of 488, 568, and 633 nm. 
For negative control experiments, primary antibodies were omitted and secondary antibodies were used alone. In all cases, the omission of the primary antibodies resulted in a complete lack of immunostaining. 
Transmission Electron Microscopy
After immersion fixation, EOMs including the tendons were cut longitudinally into small strips. Specimen were postfixed in 1% osmium tetroxide, dehydrated in graded solutions of alcohol, and embedded in Epon. Semithin cross sections were cut through the tissue blocks and examined by light microscopy. When the according structures (muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings) were identified, ultrathin sections were cut at appropriate intervals. Sections were mounted on dioxane formvar-coated (SPI, West Chester, PA) copper grids and stained in a 2% uranyl acetate solution followed by 0.4% lead citrate solution. Sections were analyzed by TEM (EM 10; Carl Zeiss Meditec). 
Results
Muscle Spindles
Structural Features.
Muscle spindles in sheep EOMs had a fusiform shape with a large subcapsular space in the equatorial region containing acidic mucopolysaccharides. The organ was ensheathed in a perineural capsule that comprised up to eight cell layers. The perineural cells of the capsule were covered with a basal lamina on both sides. The muscle spindle capsules enclosed 4 to 10 intrafusal muscle fibers which had a smaller diameter than the extrafusal muscle fibers outside the spindles. Within the equatorial region of muscle spindles, the intrafusal muscle fibers contained nuclei centrally arranged in a single row or aggregated in clusters, representing the nuclear chain and nuclear bag fibers, respectively. The sarcomeres of the nuclear chain fibers exhibited M-lines within the H-bands. Such M-lines were not observed in the sarcomeres of the nuclear bag fibers. Each muscle spindle contained one to three nuclear bag fibers, the remainder being all nuclear chain fibers (Figs. 1, 2B). 
Figure 1.
 
Light microscope image of a muscle spindle cross section through the equatorial region. The muscle spindle contained eight intrafusal muscle fibers (IF) which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). One thick and several thin nerve fibers (N) were inside the muscle spindle. Capsule (C). Scale bar, 100 μm.
Figure 1.
 
Light microscope image of a muscle spindle cross section through the equatorial region. The muscle spindle contained eight intrafusal muscle fibers (IF) which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). One thick and several thin nerve fibers (N) were inside the muscle spindle. Capsule (C). Scale bar, 100 μm.
Figure 2.
 
Electron micrographs of muscle spindles. (A) Cross section through the muscle spindle's capsule (C). The capsule consisted of perineural cells which were covered on both sides with a basal lamina (arrows). (B) Longitudinal section through two nuclear chain fibers (NC), richly endowed with sensory nerve terminals (T). (C) Detail of a sensory nerve terminal (T). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and the synaptic cleft (arrow) was free of basal lamina. (D) Longitudinal section through a motor terminal (MT). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and aggregations of clear vesicles. A basal lamina filled the synaptic cleft (arrow). Inset: detail of a motor terminal. MF; muscle fiber. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 2.
 
Electron micrographs of muscle spindles. (A) Cross section through the muscle spindle's capsule (C). The capsule consisted of perineural cells which were covered on both sides with a basal lamina (arrows). (B) Longitudinal section through two nuclear chain fibers (NC), richly endowed with sensory nerve terminals (T). (C) Detail of a sensory nerve terminal (T). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and the synaptic cleft (arrow) was free of basal lamina. (D) Longitudinal section through a motor terminal (MT). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and aggregations of clear vesicles. A basal lamina filled the synaptic cleft (arrow). Inset: detail of a motor terminal. MF; muscle fiber. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Innervation.
Morphologic Characteristics.
In the equatorial region of the muscle spindles one thick myelinated axon (8–10 μm in diameter) and several thin myelinated axons (2–4 μm) entered the proprioceptor. The thick axon divided into several branches, which ensheathed the nuclear chain and nuclear bag fibers, thereby forming typical anulospiral nerve endings. TEM demonstrated that these sensory nerve endings contained many mitochondria and only a few, if any, vesicles. The synaptic cleft of sensory contacts measured between 20 and 30 nm and did not exhibit a basal lamina. In the polar regions of muscle spindles, motor nerve terminals were observed on intrafusal fibers. Motor terminals contain mitochondria, clusters of numerous clear vesicles, and a basal lamia always filled the synaptic cleft (Figs. 2B–D). The width of the synaptic cleft measured between 80 and 100 nm. 
Molecular Characteristics.
In muscle spindles, three combinations of triple labeling were performed: anti-synaptophysin, α-bungarotoxin, and phalloidin; anti-ChAT, anti-synaptophysin, and phalloidin; and anti-ChAT, anti-neurofilament, and phalloidin. 
Labeling with anti-synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin/phalloidin showed that sensory nerve terminals in the equatorial region were synaptophysin-positive but α-bungarotoxin-negative. In contrast, motor synapses in the polar regions of muscle spindles stained double positive for synaptophysin and α-bungarotoxin. Motor terminals on muscle fibers outside the muscle spindle were also synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin positive (Figs. 3A, 3B). Labeling with anti-ChAT/anti-synaptophysin/phalloidin exhibited ChAT-positive nerve fibers entering at the muscle spindles' equatorial region. ChAT-positive nerve fibers ran toward the spindles' poles while nerve fibers supplying the spindles' equatorial region lacked ChAT-immunostaining. Furthermore, sensory nerve terminals in the spindles' equatorial regions were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative, whereas in the polar region motor terminals exhibited synaptophysin/ChAT immunoreactivity (Figs. 3C, 3D). Labeling with anti-ChAT/anti-neurofilament/phalloidin showed that muscle spindles receive a double innervation. In the equatorial region, neurofilament-positive nerve fibers as well as ChAT/neurofilament-positive nerve fibers enter the muscle spindles. In the equatorial region, nerve fibers establish anulospiral endings at intrafusal muscle fibers. These nerve fibers were solely neurofilament immunoreactive. In the spindles' polar regions, nerve fibers exhibited ChAT and neurofilament immunoreactivity (Figs. 3E, 3F). 
Figure 3.
 
CLSM images of muscle spindles showing the equatorial (A, C, E) and the polar (B, D, F) regions. The equatorial regions are shown in longitudinal sections, and the polar regions are shown in cross section (B, D) or oblique section (F). Triple-fluorescence images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A, B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (A) Sensory nerve endings in the equatorial region were positive only for synaptophysin, whereas a motor terminal (arrow) outside the spindle was synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (B) In the muscle spindle's polar region, motor terminals exhibit synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin reactivity. (C, D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (C) Sensory anulospiral nerve endings in the equatorial regions were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT-positive nerve fibers were seen alongside the spindle. Two ChAT-positive axons (arrow) running toward the spindle's pole were visible inside the spindle. (D) In the polar region ChAT-positive nerve fibers established motor terminals on the intrafusal muscle fibers. Motor terminals co-localize ChAT and synaptophysin. (E, F) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). (E) In the muscle spindles' equatorial region, nerve fibers solely positive for neurofilament and nerve fibers positive for ChAT/neurofilament are visible. Only neurofilament-positive axons ensheathed intrafusal muscle fibers and thereby formed anulospiral endings in the equatorial region. Inset: the mixed innervation of a muscle spindle in a cross section. (F) In the polar region, axons stained double positive for ChAT and neurofilament. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 3.
 
CLSM images of muscle spindles showing the equatorial (A, C, E) and the polar (B, D, F) regions. The equatorial regions are shown in longitudinal sections, and the polar regions are shown in cross section (B, D) or oblique section (F). Triple-fluorescence images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A, B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (A) Sensory nerve endings in the equatorial region were positive only for synaptophysin, whereas a motor terminal (arrow) outside the spindle was synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (B) In the muscle spindle's polar region, motor terminals exhibit synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin reactivity. (C, D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (C) Sensory anulospiral nerve endings in the equatorial regions were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT-positive nerve fibers were seen alongside the spindle. Two ChAT-positive axons (arrow) running toward the spindle's pole were visible inside the spindle. (D) In the polar region ChAT-positive nerve fibers established motor terminals on the intrafusal muscle fibers. Motor terminals co-localize ChAT and synaptophysin. (E, F) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). (E) In the muscle spindles' equatorial region, nerve fibers solely positive for neurofilament and nerve fibers positive for ChAT/neurofilament are visible. Only neurofilament-positive axons ensheathed intrafusal muscle fibers and thereby formed anulospiral endings in the equatorial region. Inset: the mixed innervation of a muscle spindle in a cross section. (F) In the polar region, axons stained double positive for ChAT and neurofilament. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Golgi Tendon Organs
Structural Features.
Golgi tendon organs were observed in each EOM in the distal and proximal tendons. The fusiform receptors were enclosed by a perineural capsule consisting of up to four cell layers. Capsule cells were covered on both sides with a basal lamina. In general, GTOs contained collagen bundles but we also found GTOs comprising collagen bundles and muscle fibers (up to five). These muscle fibers entered the receptor at one pole and either terminated in collagen bundles or passed through. Moreover, typical for GTOs was also a subcapsular gap that surrounded collagen and muscle fibers (when present) and contained acidic mucopolysaccharides (Figs. 4A, 4B). 
Figure 4.
 
Light microscopic image (A) and electron micrographs (B, C, D) of GTOs. (A) Oblique section through a GTO stained with azan. The GTO was enclosed by a capsule (C). Inside the capsule collagen bundles were visible which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). (B) Cross section through the GTO capsule (C) consisting of four perineural cell layers. Perineural cells were ensheathed by a basal lamia (arrow). (C) Cross section through a GTO. Among the collagen bundles (COL) numerous nerve terminals (T) were visible. Capsule (C). (D) High-resolution micrograph of a nerve terminal (T) contacting the neighboring collagen fibrils (COL). The nerve terminal was partly covered by a Schwann cell (S), and at the point of contact, only a basal lamina (arrow) was interposed between the axolemma and the collagen. Scale bars: (A) 100 μm, (B, C, D) 1 μm.
Figure 4.
 
Light microscopic image (A) and electron micrographs (B, C, D) of GTOs. (A) Oblique section through a GTO stained with azan. The GTO was enclosed by a capsule (C). Inside the capsule collagen bundles were visible which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). (B) Cross section through the GTO capsule (C) consisting of four perineural cell layers. Perineural cells were ensheathed by a basal lamia (arrow). (C) Cross section through a GTO. Among the collagen bundles (COL) numerous nerve terminals (T) were visible. Capsule (C). (D) High-resolution micrograph of a nerve terminal (T) contacting the neighboring collagen fibrils (COL). The nerve terminal was partly covered by a Schwann cell (S), and at the point of contact, only a basal lamina (arrow) was interposed between the axolemma and the collagen. Scale bars: (A) 100 μm, (B, C, D) 1 μm.
Innervation.
Morphologic Characteristics.
GTOs were innervated by a single axon (8–10 μm in diameter) penetrating the GTO capsule at various points. Inside the organ the axon split into several preterminal branches that finally established nerve terminals at collagen bundles. Nerve terminals were partly covered with Schwann cells and at the point of contact, only a basal lamina separated them from the neighboring collagen. Comparable to sensory nerve endings in muscle spindles, nerve endings in GTOs contained mitochondria but hardly any vesicles (Figs. 4C, 4D). 
Molecular Characteristics.
In GTOs, four combinations of triple labeling were performed: anti-synaptophysin, anti-neurofilament, and phalloidin; anti-synaptophysin, α-bungarotoxin, and phalloidin; anti-ChAT, anti-synaptophysin and phalloidin, and anti-ChAT, anti-neurofilament, and phalloidin. 
When the first staining was performed, neurofilament-labeled nerve fibers entering GTOs could be observed. Nerve terminals contacting collagen bundles inside the GTO were synaptophysin-immunoreactive. Muscle fibers, when present in GTOs, were labeled with phalloidin (Fig. 5A). Labeling with anti-synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin/phalloidin exhibited that synapses in GTOs were positive for synaptophysin but not for α-bungarotoxin. However, motor end plates outside of the GTO were double positive for synaptophysin and α-bungarotoxin (Fig. 5B). Labeling with anti-ChAT/anti-neurofilament/phalloidin and anti-ChAT/anti-synaptophysin/phalloidin showed that nerve fibers innervating GTOs were neurofilament-positive but ChAT-negative. Nerve terminals within GTOs were positive for synaptophysin but not for ChAT (Figs. 5C, 5D). 
Figure 5.
 
CLSM images of GTOs in wholemount preparations (A, D) and longitudinal frozen sections (B, C). In frozen sections, the triple fluorescent images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A single neurofilament-positive nerve fiber is shown entering a GTO containing a muscle fiber. Inside the GTO the axon divides into nerve branches which establish synaptophysin-positive contacts. (B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). Nerve terminals inside the GTO are synaptophysin-immunoreactive but α-bungarotoxin-negative. Motor end plates outside the GTOs stained synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). GTO-nerve terminals were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT and synaptophysin co-localize in the motor nerve terminals contacting the muscle fibers outside the GTO. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). In this staining combination, the nerve fiber innervating the GTO exhibited solely neurofilament reactivity. Motor nerve fibers establishing neuromuscular contacts exhibited ChAT and neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 5.
 
CLSM images of GTOs in wholemount preparations (A, D) and longitudinal frozen sections (B, C). In frozen sections, the triple fluorescent images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A single neurofilament-positive nerve fiber is shown entering a GTO containing a muscle fiber. Inside the GTO the axon divides into nerve branches which establish synaptophysin-positive contacts. (B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). Nerve terminals inside the GTO are synaptophysin-immunoreactive but α-bungarotoxin-negative. Motor end plates outside the GTOs stained synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). GTO-nerve terminals were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT and synaptophysin co-localize in the motor nerve terminals contacting the muscle fibers outside the GTO. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). In this staining combination, the nerve fiber innervating the GTO exhibited solely neurofilament reactivity. Motor nerve fibers establishing neuromuscular contacts exhibited ChAT and neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Palisade Nerve Endings
Structural Features.
Palisade endings were observed in each rectus EOM and were ensheathed by a thin capsule consisting of two to three cell layers. Capsule cells had the appearance of fibrocytes and lacked a basal lamina (Fig. 6A). The typical structure of palisade nerve endings was observed best in EOM wholemount preparations of the myotendinous intersections. We observed thin nerve fibers that came from the muscle and extended into the tendon. Within the tendon, nerve fibers turned back 180° and divided into a terminal arborization around a single muscle fiber tip (Fig. 7). We did not find differences in palisade endings of the 6-month- and 2-year-old sheep. 
Figure 6.
 
Electron micrographs of palisade nerve endings. (A) Cross section through the capsule of a palisade ending. The capsule (C) consisted of fibrocytes which lacked a basal lamina. Inside the capsule, a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the collagen fibrils was visible. (B) High-resolution micrograph of a neurotendinous contact containing mitochondria and a dense aggregation of clear vesicles. The nerve terminal was partly covered with a Schwann cell (S) and at the collagen contact site, only a basal lamina (arrow) covered the terminal. Inset: detail of the contact. (C) High-resolution image of a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the muscle fiber (MF) which was covered with a basal lamina (arrow). The neuromuscular contacts contain mitochondria and clear vesicles. In the synaptic cleft (arrowhead) a basal lamia was absent. Inset: detail of the contact. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 6.
 
Electron micrographs of palisade nerve endings. (A) Cross section through the capsule of a palisade ending. The capsule (C) consisted of fibrocytes which lacked a basal lamina. Inside the capsule, a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the collagen fibrils was visible. (B) High-resolution micrograph of a neurotendinous contact containing mitochondria and a dense aggregation of clear vesicles. The nerve terminal was partly covered with a Schwann cell (S) and at the collagen contact site, only a basal lamina (arrow) covered the terminal. Inset: detail of the contact. (C) High-resolution image of a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the muscle fiber (MF) which was covered with a basal lamina (arrow). The neuromuscular contacts contain mitochondria and clear vesicles. In the synaptic cleft (arrowhead) a basal lamia was absent. Inset: detail of the contact. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 7.
 
CLSM images of palisade endings in wholemount preparations. The unlabeled tendon continues the muscle fibers to the right. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A neurofilament-positive nerve fiber formed a palisade ending at a muscle fiber tip. Palisade nerve terminals were synaptophysin-immunoreactive. (B, C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). ChAT-positive nerve fibers supplying palisade endings at the muscle fiber tips. ChAT an synaptophysin co-localized in all palisade nerve terminals. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). The nerve fiber forming a palisade ending exhibited ChAT/neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 7.
 
CLSM images of palisade endings in wholemount preparations. The unlabeled tendon continues the muscle fibers to the right. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A neurofilament-positive nerve fiber formed a palisade ending at a muscle fiber tip. Palisade nerve terminals were synaptophysin-immunoreactive. (B, C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). ChAT-positive nerve fibers supplying palisade endings at the muscle fiber tips. ChAT an synaptophysin co-localized in all palisade nerve terminals. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). The nerve fiber forming a palisade ending exhibited ChAT/neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Innervation.
Morphologic Characteristics.
Myelinated axons forming palisade endings had a diameter of 2 to 3 μm and penetrated the capsule of the palisade ending at tendon level. Inside the capsule, axons lost their myelin sheaths and divided into preterminal axons. These preterminal axons established nerve terminals at collagen fibrils. Nerve terminals contacting collagen were only partly covered with Schwann cells. At the point of contact, a basal lamina separated nerve terminals from neighboring collagen. Such neurotendinous contacts were observed in each palisade ending, and they contained mitochondria and a lot of clear vesicles (Figs. 6A, 6B). In few palisade endings we additionally observed nerve terminals contacting muscle fiber tips. Such neuromuscular contacts contained mitochondria and clear vesicles. In the synaptic cleft, a basal lamina was absent (Fig. 6C). 
Molecular Characteristics.
For molecular evaluation, three combinations of triple labeling were performed in EOM wholemount preparations: anti-synaptophysin, anti-neurofilament, and phalloidin; anti-ChAT, anti-synaptophysin and phalloidin; and anti-ChAT, anti-neurofilament, and phalloidin. 
In the first staining combination, neurofilament-positive nerve fibers were observed to form palisade endings at single muscle fiber tips. Palisade nerve terminals exhibited synaptophysin immunoreactivity (Fig. 7A). In addition, labeling with anti-ChAT/anti-synaptophysin/phalloidin showed that nerve fibers supplying palisade endings were ChAT-positive. In all palisade nerve terminals co-localization of ChAT/synaptophysin was detectable (Figs. 7B, 7C). Moreover, labeling with anti-ChAT/anti-neurofilament/phalloidin brought to light that all nerve fibers forming palisade endings stained double-positive for ChAT and neurofilament (Fig. 7D). 
The structural and molecular characteristics of nerve terminals in muscle spindles, GTOs and palisade endings are summarized in Table 2. It is important to note that the material for our ultrastructural investigations was obtained from a single sheep. Moreover the tissue preparation for the fine structural analysis of muscle spindles, Golgi tendon organs, and palisade endings was identical. Therefore, differences in nerve terminals in muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings with respect to vesicle content are not signs of tissue artifacts or individual variations. 
Table 2.
 
Morphologic and Molecular Characteristics of Nerve Terminals in Muscle Spindles, GTOs, and Palisade Endings
Table 2.
 
Morphologic and Molecular Characteristics of Nerve Terminals in Muscle Spindles, GTOs, and Palisade Endings
Vesicles in Nerve Terminals Basal Lamina in the Synaptic Cleft ChAT Immunoreactivity of Nerve Terminals
Sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles <*
Sensory nerve terminals in GTOs <* +†
Neurotendinous contact in palisade endings + +† +
Neuromuscular contacts in palisade endings + +
Motor terminals spindles in muscle + + +
Discussion
Muscle spindles and GTOs are classic proprioceptors, whereas the function of palisade endings is unclear, whether these structures are sensory (proprioceptive), 1,3,7,11,28,29,3234 motor, 4,8,9,30 or both. 10 Among mammals, sheep is the only species in which these three nerve end organs are observed in common in EOMs. 5,17,20,26 Therefore, we consider sheep to be an ideal species in which to analyze and compare the structural and molecular characteristics of classic and putative proprioceptors (palisade endings). The structure of muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings in sheep EOMs was thoroughly described in previous studies. 5,17,20,26 We reanalyzed morphologic features to complement our new data on molecular characteristics of muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings in the EOMs of this species 
Our morphologic findings on muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings in sheep EOMs are in accordance with prior studies. 5,17,20,26 Structural differences became apparent when classic proprioceptors and palisade endings were compared directly. These differences concern cellular components of capsules that ensheathed the organs and vesicle contents of sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles and GTOs, as well as nerve terminals in palisade endings. Specifically, muscle spindles and GTOs comprised a capsule of perineural cells that were enclosed by a basal lamina. In contrast, palisade endings had a connective tissue capsule composed of fibrocytes that lacked a basal lamina. Sensory nerve terminals contacting intrafusal muscle fibers in muscle spindles' equatorial region and collagen fibrils in GTOs contained mitochondria but only a few if any vesicles. Sensory nerve terminals on intrafusal muscle fibers lacked the basal lamina in the synaptic cleft that is typical in muscle spindles of skeletal muscle including EOMs. 17,18,22,25 In each palisade ending, nerve terminals contacting the tendon were observed. In a few palisade endings, we also found nerve terminals contacting the muscle fiber surface and without a basal lamina in the synaptic cleft. Neurotendinous contacts and neuromuscular contacts (when present) in palisade endings contained mitochondria and were always full of clear vesicles. Aggregations of clear vesicles were also found in motor terminals on intrafusal muscle fibers in the muscle spindles' polar regions and in motor terminals on extrafusal muscle fibers. 
By immunohistochemistry we determined the molecular characteristics of muscle spindles, GTOs, and palisade endings. With different combinations of triple labeling we distinguish between noncholinergic and cholinergic nerve fibers and terminals. We have used α-bungarotoxin and antibody against synaptophysin to identify sensory and motor terminals in muscle spindles and GTOs. It is not sensible to apply this staining for palisade endings because to identify palisade endings, it is crucial to label the nerve fibers. 
The sensory nerve fibers in the muscle spindles' equatorial region and GTOs were neurofilament-positive but ChAT-negative. Anulospiral endings in muscle spindles' equator and nerve terminals in GTOs were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT and α-bungarotoxin-negative. Muscle spindles receive motor nerve fibers as an additional set of nerve fibers in their polar regions. These nerve fibers stained positive for ChAT and their nerve terminals positive for ChAT and α-bungarotoxin. In line with our previous findings in cat 8,14 and monkey, 4,9 we showed in sheep that palisade endings have a cholinergic phenotype. Specifically, palisade endings in sheep EOMs are supplied by ChAT/neurofilament-positive nerve fibers. The palisade complexes were ChAT/neurofilament immunoreactive as well and in all palisade nerve terminals ChAT and synaptophysin were co-localized. 
Summing up, in the present study classic proprioceptors and palisade endings clearly differed with respect to structural and molecular characteristics. We will now discuss the differences with respect to function. 
The presence of a perineural capsule and a large subcapsular gap is a typical feature of muscle spindles and GTOs both in mammalian EOMs and other skeletal muscles. 16,24,3538 Typically, in skeletal muscle, including EOMs, the capsular space of muscle spindles and GTOs is filled with perineural liquid containing acidic mucopolysaccharides. 16,24,35 It is supposed that this viscous liquid has a damping function and protects the sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles and GTOs from aberrant activation by mechanical interference coming from outside the organs. 22,26,35 Palisade endings in mammals, including humans, have a connective tissue capsule without a subcapsular space. 4,5,8,10,11,29 Furthermore, in palisade endings of humans, Lukas et al. 10 did not find acidic mucopolysaccharides inside the capsule, indicating that perineural liquid was lacking. Why sensory nerve terminals in classic proprioceptors of skeletal muscle including mammalian EOMs are surrounded by perineural liquid and nerve terminals in palisade endings are not is therefore a critical question. At least, the absence of perineural liquid indicates that nerve terminals in palisade endings are less protected against mechanical stimuli. 
Clear vesicles are organelles that are commonly observed in sensory nerve terminals of muscle spindles and GTOs and likewise in nerve terminals of palisade endings. 4,5,8,11,18,25,29,39 However, with the exception of developing muscle spindles and GTOs, the number of such vesicles is always very low in sensory nerve terminals of classic proprioceptors. 17,20,22,25,3740 Only in palisade nerve terminals is a high amount of clear vesicles usually present. 4,5,811,29 The presence of vesicles in palisade endings could indicate that maturation of palisade endings is delayed and that these organs mature at a later time. In sheep (this study) and cats 8 animals of different age (between 6 months and 2 years in sheep and between 1 and 16 years in cats) were analyzed. No differences in palisade endings were detected in young and older animals. It is therefore extremely unlikely that clear vesicles in palisade nerve terminals are a sign of ongoing maturation. 
By immunohistochemistry we determined the molecular features of clear vesicles. The results showed that vesicles in sensory nerve terminals of muscle spindles and GTOs and palisade nerve terminals differed from each other. In particular, vesicles in sensory nerve terminals of classic proprioceptors were noncholinergic. Vesicles in palisade nerve terminals of sheep were cholinergic, which is in line with our prior findings in palisade endings in cats 8,14 and monkeys. 4,9 Cholinergic vesicles are also found in motor terminals on intrafusal muscle fibers and extrafusal muscle fibers in sheep EOMs and cholinergic vesicles are a general feature of all kind of motor terminals including en plaque and en qrappe motor terminals. 4,41 ChAT is the synthesizing enzyme for the acetylcholine which is the neurotransmitter usually found in motor terminals. The present study confirmed in another animal species that palisade endings contain acetylcholine and further showed that perceptive synapses in classic proprioceptors almost certainly do not contain acetylcholine. In fact this difference between classic proprioceptors and palisade endings complements our recent molecular findings on palisade endings 4,8,9,14 and support the assumption that palisade endings are effectors and most likely not sensory structures. 
Clear evidence that palisade endings are effectors came from α-bungarotoxin labeling and a nerve degeneration experiment. 4,8,10,30 In cats, 8 monkeys, 4 and humans 10 neuromuscular contacts when present in palisade endings are endowed with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors as demonstrated by staining with α-bungarotoxin. In monkeys, it has also been detected in some cases that nerve fibers supplying palisade endings establish motor contacts outside the palisade complex, which was confirmed by α-bungarotoxin binding. 4 Further, in a nerve degeneration experiment Sas and Scháb 30 found that the perikarya of nerve fibers forming palisade endings lie in the EOM motor nuclei. Specifically, lesions of the EOM motor nuclei cause degeneration of motor terminals and additional loss of palisade endings in the EOMs. 30 Nevertheless, there are also arguments in favor of a sensory role of palisade endings. With the exception of rabbits 6 and rats, 7 palisade endings in all other species (sheep, 5 cats, 8,29 monkeys, 4,11 and humans 10 ) have nerve terminals contacting the tendon. Analogous to GTOs, it is legitimate to ague that such neurotendinous contacts are sensory despite their cholinergic phenotype. The strongest argument that palisade endings are sensory comes from a single neuronal tracing experiment. By injecting neuronal tracer into the sensory trigeminal ganglion of cats Billig et al. 3 found labeled nerve endings in the EOMs, one of which resembled palisade endings. 
Since there are arguments for a motor as well as a sensory role for palisade endings, could it be that this EOM-specific structures receive a double innervation from motor and sensory nerve fibers? The answer to this question is no. Specifically, in cats, 8 monkeys, 9 and now in sheep, labeling of nerve fibers with a general marker for neurons (anti-neurofilament) and with a marker for cholinergic nerve fibers (anti-ChAT) has shown that all nerve fibers supplying palisade endings exhibit neurofilament/ChAT-immunoreactivity. Likewise, labeling nerve terminals with a general marker for nerve terminals (anti-synaptophysin) and anti-ChAT demonstrates that all palisade nerve terminals co-localize synaptophysin and ChAT. 8,9  
Functional Considerations
Muscle spindles and GTOs in EOMs of even-toed ungulates exhibit a similar morphology as their counterparts in mammalian limb muscles. It is broadly assumed that these two receptors function similar in EOMs and limb muscles. In fact, electrophysiological studies by Manni et al. 42,43 in even-toed ungulates demonstrated that muscle spindles in EOMs are sensitive to muscle stretch. GTOs in EOMs of event-toed ungulates are supposed to register muscle fiber contraction. Analogous to GTOs in limb muscles, it is assumed that the contraction of EOM muscle fibers attached to GTOs tightens the collagen bundles. 26,36,39,44 Nerve terminals between the collagen are squeezed and distorted, thereby generating an action potential that is conducted centrally. 26,36,39,44 In EOMs GTOs with traversing muscle fibers are observed. It is supposed that such muscle fibers could regulate the sensitivity of the organ. 26 Specifically, by contraction of traversing muscle fibers, GTOs collagen bundles would relax and more power from external attached muscle fibers would be required to tighten GTO collagen bundles and excite GTO nerve terminals. 26,45  
The function of palisade endings is speculative because physiological evidence is still lacking. Analogous to GTOs, palisade endings have nerve terminals that establish intimate contacts to the collagen fibrils. From this point of view, it is legitimate to conclude that neurotendinous contacts in palisade endings are sensory. Because of their location in series with muscle fibers, palisade neurotendinous contacts would register muscle fiber contraction. If this assumption is correct GTOs and palisade endings would exert the same function. Our molecular analyses however, demonstrated that palisade nerve terminals contain ChAT, which is a feature more in common with excitatory synapses. On activation, neurotendinous contacts in palisade endings release acetylcholine, which would diffuse into the tendon. To date, we do not know anything about an acetylcholine receptor site in the tendon and the effect of neurotransmitter release on collagen is difficult to predict. Miledi et al. 46 found acetylcholine receptors in the membrane of frog muscle fibers at the attachment with the tendon. If this is also true for palisade endings, acetylcholine released from neurotendinous contacts would diffuse a long distance through the collagen before reaching the target receptors. In some palisade endings of sheep, 5 cats, 8,14,29 monkeys, 4,11 and humans 10 neuromuscular contacts are observed in addition to neurotendinous contacts. In humans 10 and recently in monkeys, 4 it was shown that neuromuscular contacts have characteristics of motor terminals, which was confirmed by α-bungarotoxin staining. On activation, such contacts would elicit a local contraction of the palisade muscle fiber tip. 
There is evidence that proprioceptive input from EOMs reaches several regions of the central nervous system. 47 Of interest, classic proprioceptors are absent in the EOMs of most mammalian species and are found only in EOMs of even-toed ungulates. 1319,26 The reason for this interspecies variation is unclear. Palisade endings are present in each species investigated so far. For those species lacking muscle spindles and GTOs, it was supposed that the palisade endings represent an alternative receptor. 3,7,11,29,32,34 In the present study, we confirmed in sheep that palisade endings are cholinergic and the comparison with muscle spindles and GTOs exhibited that sensory nerve terminals in these organs are noncholinergic. Further, between well-known proprioceptors and palisade endings, differences in the capsular arrangement were also detected. All evidence suggests that palisade endings are different from classic proprioceptors and puts into question whether palisade endings are sensory structures. 
Footnotes
 Supported by Grant P20881-B09 from the Fonds zur Foerderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF).
Footnotes
 Disclosure: S. Rungaldier, None; S. Heiligenbrunner, None; R. Mayer, None; C. Hanefl-Krivanek, None; M. Lipowe c, None; J. Streicher, None; R. Blume r, None
Footnotes
 The publication costs of this article were defrayed in part by page charge payment. This article must therefore be marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. §1734 solely to indicate this fact.
The authors thank Arslan Hamyat, the head of the local abattoir, for the kind provision of animal material. 
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Figure 1.
 
Light microscope image of a muscle spindle cross section through the equatorial region. The muscle spindle contained eight intrafusal muscle fibers (IF) which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). One thick and several thin nerve fibers (N) were inside the muscle spindle. Capsule (C). Scale bar, 100 μm.
Figure 1.
 
Light microscope image of a muscle spindle cross section through the equatorial region. The muscle spindle contained eight intrafusal muscle fibers (IF) which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). One thick and several thin nerve fibers (N) were inside the muscle spindle. Capsule (C). Scale bar, 100 μm.
Figure 2.
 
Electron micrographs of muscle spindles. (A) Cross section through the muscle spindle's capsule (C). The capsule consisted of perineural cells which were covered on both sides with a basal lamina (arrows). (B) Longitudinal section through two nuclear chain fibers (NC), richly endowed with sensory nerve terminals (T). (C) Detail of a sensory nerve terminal (T). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and the synaptic cleft (arrow) was free of basal lamina. (D) Longitudinal section through a motor terminal (MT). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and aggregations of clear vesicles. A basal lamina filled the synaptic cleft (arrow). Inset: detail of a motor terminal. MF; muscle fiber. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 2.
 
Electron micrographs of muscle spindles. (A) Cross section through the muscle spindle's capsule (C). The capsule consisted of perineural cells which were covered on both sides with a basal lamina (arrows). (B) Longitudinal section through two nuclear chain fibers (NC), richly endowed with sensory nerve terminals (T). (C) Detail of a sensory nerve terminal (T). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and the synaptic cleft (arrow) was free of basal lamina. (D) Longitudinal section through a motor terminal (MT). The nerve terminal contained mitochondria and aggregations of clear vesicles. A basal lamina filled the synaptic cleft (arrow). Inset: detail of a motor terminal. MF; muscle fiber. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 3.
 
CLSM images of muscle spindles showing the equatorial (A, C, E) and the polar (B, D, F) regions. The equatorial regions are shown in longitudinal sections, and the polar regions are shown in cross section (B, D) or oblique section (F). Triple-fluorescence images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A, B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (A) Sensory nerve endings in the equatorial region were positive only for synaptophysin, whereas a motor terminal (arrow) outside the spindle was synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (B) In the muscle spindle's polar region, motor terminals exhibit synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin reactivity. (C, D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (C) Sensory anulospiral nerve endings in the equatorial regions were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT-positive nerve fibers were seen alongside the spindle. Two ChAT-positive axons (arrow) running toward the spindle's pole were visible inside the spindle. (D) In the polar region ChAT-positive nerve fibers established motor terminals on the intrafusal muscle fibers. Motor terminals co-localize ChAT and synaptophysin. (E, F) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). (E) In the muscle spindles' equatorial region, nerve fibers solely positive for neurofilament and nerve fibers positive for ChAT/neurofilament are visible. Only neurofilament-positive axons ensheathed intrafusal muscle fibers and thereby formed anulospiral endings in the equatorial region. Inset: the mixed innervation of a muscle spindle in a cross section. (F) In the polar region, axons stained double positive for ChAT and neurofilament. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 3.
 
CLSM images of muscle spindles showing the equatorial (A, C, E) and the polar (B, D, F) regions. The equatorial regions are shown in longitudinal sections, and the polar regions are shown in cross section (B, D) or oblique section (F). Triple-fluorescence images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A, B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (A) Sensory nerve endings in the equatorial region were positive only for synaptophysin, whereas a motor terminal (arrow) outside the spindle was synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (B) In the muscle spindle's polar region, motor terminals exhibit synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin reactivity. (C, D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). (C) Sensory anulospiral nerve endings in the equatorial regions were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT-positive nerve fibers were seen alongside the spindle. Two ChAT-positive axons (arrow) running toward the spindle's pole were visible inside the spindle. (D) In the polar region ChAT-positive nerve fibers established motor terminals on the intrafusal muscle fibers. Motor terminals co-localize ChAT and synaptophysin. (E, F) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). (E) In the muscle spindles' equatorial region, nerve fibers solely positive for neurofilament and nerve fibers positive for ChAT/neurofilament are visible. Only neurofilament-positive axons ensheathed intrafusal muscle fibers and thereby formed anulospiral endings in the equatorial region. Inset: the mixed innervation of a muscle spindle in a cross section. (F) In the polar region, axons stained double positive for ChAT and neurofilament. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 4.
 
Light microscopic image (A) and electron micrographs (B, C, D) of GTOs. (A) Oblique section through a GTO stained with azan. The GTO was enclosed by a capsule (C). Inside the capsule collagen bundles were visible which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). (B) Cross section through the GTO capsule (C) consisting of four perineural cell layers. Perineural cells were ensheathed by a basal lamia (arrow). (C) Cross section through a GTO. Among the collagen bundles (COL) numerous nerve terminals (T) were visible. Capsule (C). (D) High-resolution micrograph of a nerve terminal (T) contacting the neighboring collagen fibrils (COL). The nerve terminal was partly covered by a Schwann cell (S), and at the point of contact, only a basal lamina (arrow) was interposed between the axolemma and the collagen. Scale bars: (A) 100 μm, (B, C, D) 1 μm.
Figure 4.
 
Light microscopic image (A) and electron micrographs (B, C, D) of GTOs. (A) Oblique section through a GTO stained with azan. The GTO was enclosed by a capsule (C). Inside the capsule collagen bundles were visible which were separated from the capsule by a subcapsular space (Image not available). (B) Cross section through the GTO capsule (C) consisting of four perineural cell layers. Perineural cells were ensheathed by a basal lamia (arrow). (C) Cross section through a GTO. Among the collagen bundles (COL) numerous nerve terminals (T) were visible. Capsule (C). (D) High-resolution micrograph of a nerve terminal (T) contacting the neighboring collagen fibrils (COL). The nerve terminal was partly covered by a Schwann cell (S), and at the point of contact, only a basal lamina (arrow) was interposed between the axolemma and the collagen. Scale bars: (A) 100 μm, (B, C, D) 1 μm.
Figure 5.
 
CLSM images of GTOs in wholemount preparations (A, D) and longitudinal frozen sections (B, C). In frozen sections, the triple fluorescent images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A single neurofilament-positive nerve fiber is shown entering a GTO containing a muscle fiber. Inside the GTO the axon divides into nerve branches which establish synaptophysin-positive contacts. (B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). Nerve terminals inside the GTO are synaptophysin-immunoreactive but α-bungarotoxin-negative. Motor end plates outside the GTOs stained synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). GTO-nerve terminals were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT and synaptophysin co-localize in the motor nerve terminals contacting the muscle fibers outside the GTO. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). In this staining combination, the nerve fiber innervating the GTO exhibited solely neurofilament reactivity. Motor nerve fibers establishing neuromuscular contacts exhibited ChAT and neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 5.
 
CLSM images of GTOs in wholemount preparations (A, D) and longitudinal frozen sections (B, C). In frozen sections, the triple fluorescent images were overlaid with a transmission light image. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A single neurofilament-positive nerve fiber is shown entering a GTO containing a muscle fiber. Inside the GTO the axon divides into nerve branches which establish synaptophysin-positive contacts. (B) Labeling with anti-synaptophysin (green), α-bungarotoxin (red), and phalloidin (blue). Nerve terminals inside the GTO are synaptophysin-immunoreactive but α-bungarotoxin-negative. Motor end plates outside the GTOs stained synaptophysin/α-bungarotoxin-positive. (C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). GTO-nerve terminals were synaptophysin-positive but ChAT-negative. ChAT and synaptophysin co-localize in the motor nerve terminals contacting the muscle fibers outside the GTO. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). In this staining combination, the nerve fiber innervating the GTO exhibited solely neurofilament reactivity. Motor nerve fibers establishing neuromuscular contacts exhibited ChAT and neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 6.
 
Electron micrographs of palisade nerve endings. (A) Cross section through the capsule of a palisade ending. The capsule (C) consisted of fibrocytes which lacked a basal lamina. Inside the capsule, a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the collagen fibrils was visible. (B) High-resolution micrograph of a neurotendinous contact containing mitochondria and a dense aggregation of clear vesicles. The nerve terminal was partly covered with a Schwann cell (S) and at the collagen contact site, only a basal lamina (arrow) covered the terminal. Inset: detail of the contact. (C) High-resolution image of a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the muscle fiber (MF) which was covered with a basal lamina (arrow). The neuromuscular contacts contain mitochondria and clear vesicles. In the synaptic cleft (arrowhead) a basal lamia was absent. Inset: detail of the contact. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 6.
 
Electron micrographs of palisade nerve endings. (A) Cross section through the capsule of a palisade ending. The capsule (C) consisted of fibrocytes which lacked a basal lamina. Inside the capsule, a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the collagen fibrils was visible. (B) High-resolution micrograph of a neurotendinous contact containing mitochondria and a dense aggregation of clear vesicles. The nerve terminal was partly covered with a Schwann cell (S) and at the collagen contact site, only a basal lamina (arrow) covered the terminal. Inset: detail of the contact. (C) High-resolution image of a palisade nerve terminal (T) contacting the muscle fiber (MF) which was covered with a basal lamina (arrow). The neuromuscular contacts contain mitochondria and clear vesicles. In the synaptic cleft (arrowhead) a basal lamia was absent. Inset: detail of the contact. Scale bars, 1 μm.
Figure 7.
 
CLSM images of palisade endings in wholemount preparations. The unlabeled tendon continues the muscle fibers to the right. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A neurofilament-positive nerve fiber formed a palisade ending at a muscle fiber tip. Palisade nerve terminals were synaptophysin-immunoreactive. (B, C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). ChAT-positive nerve fibers supplying palisade endings at the muscle fiber tips. ChAT an synaptophysin co-localized in all palisade nerve terminals. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). The nerve fiber forming a palisade ending exhibited ChAT/neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Figure 7.
 
CLSM images of palisade endings in wholemount preparations. The unlabeled tendon continues the muscle fibers to the right. (A) Labeling with anti-neurofilament (red), anti-synaptophysin (green), and phalloidin (blue). A neurofilament-positive nerve fiber formed a palisade ending at a muscle fiber tip. Palisade nerve terminals were synaptophysin-immunoreactive. (B, C) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-synaptophysin (red), and phalloidin (blue). ChAT-positive nerve fibers supplying palisade endings at the muscle fiber tips. ChAT an synaptophysin co-localized in all palisade nerve terminals. (D) Labeling with anti-ChAT (green), anti-neurofilament (red), and phalloidin (blue). The nerve fiber forming a palisade ending exhibited ChAT/neurofilament immunoreactivity. Scale bars, 100 μm.
Table 1.
 
Markers and Antibodies for Immunohistochemical Triple-Staining Detection
Table 1.
 
Markers and Antibodies for Immunohistochemical Triple-Staining Detection
Triple Staining Marker for Muscle Fibers and Motor End Plates Primary Antibodies Secondary Antibodies
Phalloidin, neurofilament, synptophysin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin, CS 1:500 WM: 1:50, Molecular Probes Chicken anti-neurofilament, CS: 1:5000 WM 1:2500, Molecular Probes, Eugene, OR Goat anti-chicken Alexa Fluor 568, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Mouse anti-synaptophysin, CS: 1:400 WM 1:200, Chemicon. Temecula, CA Goat anti-mouse Alexa Fluor 488, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Phalloidin, ChAT, synaptophysin, α-bungarotoxin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin, rhodamine-conjugated α-bungarotoxin, CS: 1:500, Molecular Probes Synaptophysin, CS: 1:400, Chemicon Goat anti-mouse Alexa Fluor 488
Phalloidin, ChAT, synaptophysin Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin Rabbit anti ChAT, CS: 1:500 WM: 1:250, Michael Schemann, University of Munich, Germany Goat anti-rabbit Alexa Fluor 488, 1:500, Molecular Probes
Mouse anti-synptophsin, CS: 1:400 WM 1:200 Goat anti-mouse rhodamine, 1:200, Chemicon
Phalloidin, ChAT, Alexa Fluor 633–conjugated phalloidin Rabbit anti ChAT Chicken anti- Goat anti-rabbit Alexa Fluor 488
    neurofilament neurofilament Goat anti-chicken Alexa Fluor 568
Table 2.
 
Morphologic and Molecular Characteristics of Nerve Terminals in Muscle Spindles, GTOs, and Palisade Endings
Table 2.
 
Morphologic and Molecular Characteristics of Nerve Terminals in Muscle Spindles, GTOs, and Palisade Endings
Vesicles in Nerve Terminals Basal Lamina in the Synaptic Cleft ChAT Immunoreactivity of Nerve Terminals
Sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles <*
Sensory nerve terminals in GTOs <* +†
Neurotendinous contact in palisade endings + +† +
Neuromuscular contacts in palisade endings + +
Motor terminals spindles in muscle + + +
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