Synaptic Segregation at the Developing Neuromuscular Junction

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Science  20 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5393, pp. 1508-1511
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5393.1508

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Throughout the developing nervous system, competition between axons causes the permanent removal of some synaptic connections. In mouse neuromuscular junctions at birth, terminal branches of different axons are intermingled. However, during the several weeks after birth, these branches progressively segregated into nonoverlapping compartments before the complete withdrawal of all but one axon. Segregation was caused by selective branch atrophy, detachment, and withdrawal; the axon branches that were nearest to the competitor's branches were removed before the more distant branches were removed. This progression suggests that the signals that mediate the competitive removal of synapses must decrease in potency over short distances.

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