There are over 600 skeletal muscles in your body; those are the ones that get your bones moving. They spring into action every time motor nerves send signals to them via special junctions called neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We don’t yet know exactly how NMJs develop but past research suggests signalling molecules called Wnts are involved. Researchers genetically tweaked mice to prevent the release of Wnts from their motor nerves during development. The mutant mice showed muscle weakness and looking at their NMJs using fluorescent microscopy (pictured) revealed that the ends of their nerves (green) were swollen (top middle) when compared to normal mice NMJs (top left). Next they added back different Wnts (top right and bottom row) to see which could rescue these defects. Wnt 7A and 7B were the winners (bottom left and middle). More digging will reveal just what they are up to during NMJ development.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
- Image adapted from work by Lei Li, Kai Zhao and Lei Bai, and colleagues
- Department of Neurosciences, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA
- Image originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
- Published in eLife, August 2018