The dendritic geometry of 20 phrenic motoneurons from four postnatal ages (2 weeks, 1 and 2 months, and adult) was examined by using intracellular injection of horseradish peroxidase. The number of primary dendrites (∼ 11∼12) remained constant throughout postnatal development. In general, postnatal growth of the dendrites resulted from an increase in the branching and in the length and diameter of segments at all orders of the dendritic tree. There was one exception. Between 2 weeks and 1 month, the maximum extent of the dendrites increased in parallel with the growth of the spinal cord; however, there was no increase in either combined dendritic length or total membrane surface area. In addition, there was a significant decrease in the number of dendritic terminals per cell (59.8 ± 9.3 vs. 46.4 ± 7.4 for 2 weeks and 1 month, respectively). The distance from the soma, where the peak number of dendritic terminals per cell occurred, ranged from 700–900 μm at 2 weeks and 2 months to 1,300–1,700 μm in the adult. The diameter of dendrites as a function of distance from the soma along the dendritic path increased with age. The process of maturation tended to increase the distance from the soma over which the surface area and dendritic trunk parameter (∑d1.5/D1.5) remained constant. The three‐dimensional distribution of dendrites was analyzed by dividing space into six equal volumes or hexants. This analysis revealed that the postnatal growth in surface area in the rostral and caudal hexants was proportionately larger than that in either the medial, lateral, dorsal, or ventral hexants. Strong linear correlations were found between the diameter of the primary dendrite and the combined length, surface area, volume, and number of terminals of the dendrite at all ages studied.
- horseradish peroxidase
- intracellular injection
- spinal cord
- three‐dimensional reconstruction
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