The Journal of Comparative Neurology
Mammalian extraocular muscles contain singly innervated twitch muscle fibers (SIF) and multiply innervated nontwitch muscle fibers (MIF). In monkey, MIF motoneurons lie around the periphery of oculomotor nuclei and have premotor inputs different from those of the motoneurons inside the nuclei. The most prominent MIF motoneuron group is the C group, which innervates the medial rectus (MR) and inferior rectus (IR) muscle. To explore the organization of both cell groups within the C group, we performed small injections of choleratoxin subunit B into the myotendinous junction of MR or IR in monkeys. In three animals the IR and MR myotendinous junction of one eye was injected simultaneously with different tracers (choleratoxin subunit B and wheat germ agglutinin). This revealed that both muscles were supplied by two different, nonoverlapping populations in the C group. The IR neurons lie adjacent to the dorsomedial border of the oculomotor nucleus, whereas MR neurons are located farther medially. A striking feature was the differing pattern of dendrite distribution of both cell groups. Whereas the dendrites of IR neurons spread into the supraoculomotor area bilaterally, those of the MR neurons were restricted to the ipsilateral side and sent a focused bundle dorsally to the preganglionic neurons of the Edinger-Westphal nucleus, which are involved in the near response. In conclusion, MR and IR are innervated by independent neuron populations from the C group. Their dendritic branching pattern within the supraoculomotor area indicates a participation in the near response providing vergence but also reflects their differing functional roles.