Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.
Sex differences at the laryngeal neuromuscular junction of Xenopus laevis were examined by recording intracellularly from muscle fibers in response to nerve stimulation. Male laryngeal muscle contains 2 physiologically distinct fiber types. Type I fibers generate postsynaptic potentials in response to low-magnitude stimulus pulses and action potentials in response to higher-magnitude stimulus pulses. Type II muscle fibers require repetitive stimulation for action potential production, probably because of facilitation. Subthreshold events in type I and II fibers suggest that these neuromuscular synapses have low safety factor junctions. Female laryngeal muscle contains one fiber type (III), which is physiologically distinct from those found in the male. Type III fibers produce an action potential in response to a single-stimulus pulse of suprathreshold voltage delivered to the laryngeal nerve; subthreshold events were not observed. Iontophoretic injection of Lucifer yellow into a single female muscle fiber resulted in as many as 43 labeled fibers. In males, only one fiber was labeled. Dye-coupling was not observed in adult females treated with the androgenic steroid hormone, testosterone. We have previously reported that laryngeal muscle fibers are recruited throughout a stimulus train presented to the laryngeal nerve in males, but are not recruited in females (Tobias and Kelly, 1987). Sex differences in the frequency of electrophysiological fiber types described here may account for sex differences in fiber recruitment. Synchronous activity of dye-coupled fibers may increase the effectiveness of muscle contraction in females.