In familial infantile myasthenia (FIM) the miniature end-plate potential (MEPP) amplitude is normal in rested muscle, but stimulation in vitro at 10 Hz decreases it abnormally, and neuromuscular transmission fails in a few minutes. In search of a morphologic correlate of the transmission failure, we analyzed the densities and diameters of synaptic vesicles in deep and superficial regions of nerve terminals in external intercostal muscles of three FIM patients and three nonweak controls before and after 10-Hz stimulation for 10 minutes. The densities of superficial or deep synaptic vesicles before or after stimulation in FIM were not significantly different from the corresponding control values. The diameters of superficial and deep synaptic vesicles before stimulation were significantly smaller in the three FIM patients than in the three controls. Stimulation in the FIM patients reduced the MEPP amplitude by 51 to 75%, but increased the vesicle diameter in two patients and did not change the vesicle diameter in one patient. Stimulation in the controls reduced the MEPP amplitude by only 16 to 34%, decreased the vesicle diameter in two, and did not change the vesicle diameter in one. Stimulation after treatment with 1 mg/dl hemicholinium markedly reduced the MEPP amplitude in the controls, had no further effect on the transmission defect in FIM, and had no consistent effect on vesicle diameter in FIM or controls. We conclude that synaptic vesicles are abnormally small in rested muscle in FIM, but vesicle size cannot be reliably correlated with the MEPP amplitude in FIM or controls.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology