Neuromuscular junction

A neuromuscular junction (or myoneural junction) is a chemical synapse between a motor neuron and a muscle fiber.[1]

Neuromuscular junction
Electron micrograph showing a cross section through the neuromuscular junction. T is the axon terminal, M is the muscle fiber. The arrow shows junctional folds with basal lamina. Active zones are visible on the tips between the folds. Scale is 0.3 μm. Source: NIMH
Latinsynapssis neuromuscularis; junctio neuromuscularis
Anatomical terminology
At the neuromuscular junction, the nerve fiber is able to transmit a signal to the muscle fiber by releasing ACh (and other substances), causing muscle contraction.
Muscles will contract or relax when they receive signals from the nervous system. The neuromuscular junction is the site of the signal exchange. The steps of this process in vertebrates occur as follows:(1) The action potential reaches the axon terminal. (2) Voltage-dependent calcium gates open, allowing calcium to enter the axon terminal. (3) Neurotransmitter vesicles fuse with the presynaptic membrane and ACh is released into the synaptic cleft via exocytosis. (4) ACh binds to postsynaptic receptors on the sarcolemma. (5) This binding causes ion channels to open and allows sodium and other cations to flow across the membrane into the muscle cell. (6) The flow of sodium ions across the membrane into and potassium ions out of the muscle cell generates an action potential which travels to the myofibril and results in muscle contraction.Labels:A: Motor Neuron AxonB: Axon TerminalC. Synaptic CleftD. Muscle CellE. Part of a Myofibril

It allows the motor neuron to transmit a signal to the muscle fiber, causing muscle contraction.

Muscles require innervation to function—and even just to maintain muscle tone, avoiding atrophy. In the neuromuscular system nerves from the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system are linked and work together with muscles.[2] Synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction begins when an action potential reaches the presynaptic terminal of a motor neuron, which activates voltage-gated calcium channels to allow calcium ions to enter the neuron. Calcium ions bind to sensor proteins (synaptotagmin) on synaptic vesicles, triggering vesicle fusion with the cell membrane and subsequent neurotransmitter release from the motor neuron into the synaptic cleft. In vertebrates, motor neurons release acetylcholine (ACh), a small molecule neurotransmitter, which diffuses across the synaptic cleft and binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) on the cell membrane of the muscle fiber, also known as the sarcolemma. nAChRs are ionotropic receptors, meaning they serve as ligand-gated ion channels. The binding of ACh to the receptor can depolarize the muscle fiber, causing a cascade that eventually results in muscle contraction.

Neuromuscular junction diseases can be of genetic and autoimmune origin. Genetic disorders, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, can arise from mutated structural proteins that comprise the neuromuscular junction, whereas autoimmune diseases, such as myasthenia gravis, occur when antibodies are produced against nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on the sarcolemma.

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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Neuromuscular junction, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.