Histochemical and Functional Correlations in Anterior Horn Neurons of the Cat Spinal Cord

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Science  15 Jan 1971:
Vol. 171, Issue 3967, pp. 198-199
DOI: 10.1126/science.171.3967.198


The histochemical reaction for phosphorylase is completely lost from anterior horn neurons rich in phosphorylase within 72 hours after proximal or distal axonal section. Using this new type of axonal reaction as a marking technique in the anterior horn of the seventh lumbar spinal cord segment of the cat, we demonstrated that (i) alpha motor neurons of slow twitch motor units, like those of fast twitch motor units, are rich in phosphorylase and poor in succinate dehydrogenase, and (ii) interneurons and Renshaw neurons are rich in succinate dehydrogenase and poor in phosphorylase. Gamma motor neurons, because of their small size, are considered to be rich in succinate dehydrogenase and poor in phosphorylase. Thus, anterior horn neurons capable of higher firing frequencies (Renshaw neurons, interneurons, and gamma motor neurons) are richer in mitochondrial oxidative enzyme activity as marked by succinate dehydrogenase. Those firing at lower frequencies (both types of alpha motor neurons) are richer in phosphorylase activity and glycogen content and, thus, apparently better equipped for anaerobic glycolysis.