Pathway selection by growth cones of identified motoneurones in live zebra fish embryos

Judith S. Eisen, Paul Z. Myers, Monte Westerfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

289 Scopus citations


How is the adult pattern of connections between motoneurones and the muscles that they innervate established during vertebrate development? Populations of motoneurones are thought to follow one of two patterns of development: (1) Motor axons initially follow stereotyped pathways1 and project to appropriate regions of the developing muscle2-4 or (2) motor axons initially project to some regions that are incorrect, the inappropriate projections being eliminated subsequently5-9. Here we observed individually identified motoneurones in live zebra fish embryos as they formed growth cones and as their growth cones navigated towards their targets. We report that from axogenesis, each motor axon followed a stereotyped pathway and projected only to the specific region of the muscle appropriate for its adult function10. In addition, the peripheral arbor established by each motoneurone was restricted to a stereotyped region of its own segment and did not overlap with the peripheral arbor of the other motoneurones in that segment. We conclude that the highly stereotyped pattern of innerva-tion seen in the adult is due to initial selection of the appropriate pathway, rather than elimination of incorrect projections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-271
Number of pages3
Issue number6059
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


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