Palisade endings in extraocular eye muscles revealed by SNAP-25 immunoreactivity

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Palisade endings form a cuff of nerve terminals around the tip of muscle fibres. They are found only in extraocular muscles, but no definite evidence for their role in eye movements has been established. Palisade endings have been reported in all species so far investigated except the rat. In this study we demonstrate that antibodies against SNAP-25, the synaptosomal associated protein of 25 kDa, reliably visualize the complete motor, sensory and autonomic innervation of the extraocular muscles in human, monkey and rat. The SNAP-25 antibody can be combined with other immunofluorescence procedures, and is used here to study properties of palisade endings. With SNAP-25 immunolabelling putative palisade endings are identified in the rat for the first time. They are not well branched, but fulfil several criteria of palisade endings, being associated with non-twitch fibres as shown by double labelling with ‘myosin heavy chain slow-twitch’ antibodies. The putative palisade endings of the rat lack α-bungarotoxin binding, which implies that these synapses are sensory. If palisade endings are sensory then they could function as an eye muscle proprioceptor. They seem to be a general feature of all vertebrate eye muscles, unlike the other two extraocular proprioceptors, muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs, the presence of which varies widely between species.

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