Developing neuromuscular junctions in tissue cultures of rat embryo spinal cord and muscle were studied with intracellular recording. Excitatory junctional potentials (ejps) were found during nerve or spinal cord stimulation, and also arising spontaneously. The time-course of the potentials tended to be shorter in cultures older than 9 days in vitro than in more recently innervated cultures. Evidence of multiple innervation was found in many cells. In order to test the hypothesis that transmitter was released in integral multiples of a quantal amount and according to a Poisson distribution, mean quantum content was calculated from the coefficient of variation of ejp amplitudes, the percentage of zero responses, and the ratio of mean amplitude to mean of the smallest class of amplitudes. The three independent measures were in fair or good mutual agreement, implying that the mechanism of transmitter release in newly developed junctions is the same as in the adult. In newly formed junctions, ejps were subthreshold for action potential generation, but afterwards mean quantum content increased and action potentials were generated by single ejps. In fibers developing both with and without innervation, the entire muscle cell surface was as sensitive to acetylcholine as the adult end plate region. Innervation was related to cross-striation: every cross-striated fiber tested was found to be innervated, and denervation in vitro led to loss of distinct cross-striations.

This content is only available as a PDF.