Morphology of developing motoneurons innervating the medial gastrocnemius of the cat

William E. Cameron, He Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The morphology of medial gastrocnemius (MG) motoneurons labeled by retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase was quantified in 5 postnatal ages (3 to 79-86 days) and in adults. A bimodal distribution of somal volumes was evident at birth which permitted separating the motoneurons into alpha and gamma subpopulations for analysis. There was a significant increase in the axial dimensions, surface area and volume calculated for both alpha and gamma cell bodies between each of the age-groups studied. A greater relative growth of the major over minor axis for the gammas produced a significant decrease in the form factor (i.e. greater eccentricity) between the youngest and oldest age-groups. The number of primary dendrites observed remained constant throughout postnatal development. The surface area of alpha somata more than tripled while that of the gammas doubled from 3 days to the adult. The mean somal volume of an alpha motoneuron at birth was only 17% of its adult value while the gamma cell bodies were 33% of their adult volume. A positive correlation was found for both alpha and gamma motoneurons when their somal surface area was plotted against postnatal age and weight. The rate of growth of the MG somal surface area is compared to the changes found in axonal conduction velocity and axonal diameter for MG in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-263
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell body
  • Development
  • Feline
  • Morphology
  • Motoneuron
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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