The postganglionic axons of sympathetic neurons innervating the mouse vas deferens were stimulated transmurally in vitro by passing square pulses between two platinum electrodes. The ultrastructural appearance of the adrenergic nerve terminals was compared to samples fixed immediately after 30 min of stimulation and in samples allowed to recover for 2 h before fixation. The contralateral vasa deferentia served as controls, and these were incubated in Krebs solution for the same period as stimulated muscles. For each of four experiments, the mean number of large and small dense-core vesicles per square micrometer was calculated, as were the mean area and perimeter of the axon varicosities in each group. It was found that the number of small vesicles per square micrometer decreased by 60% during the stimulation period, but returned almost to control levels 2 h later. Large vesicles did not change in number during the stimulation or recovery periods. The proportion of vesicles containing cores was also determined for each group and found to decline just after stimulation in the small vesicle population, but to remain constant in the large vesicle population. The core depletion was partly reversed after 2 h. The vesicle recovery process was studied by use of the extracellular tracer horseradish peroxidase (HRP). When HRP was present in the extracellular space during stimulation, large numbers of vesicles contained the marker after recovery from stimulation. Thus, it is proposed that adrenergic axon varicosities recycle vesicle membrane through the plasma membrane in a manner similar to that already described for cholinergic nerve terminals.

This content is only available as a PDF.