Synapse competition and elimination are widespread developmental processes, first demonstrated at neonatal neuromuscular junctions. Action potential activity was long shown to exert a powerful influence, but mechanisms and contribution relative to other factors are still not well understood. Here we show that replacement of natural motoneuronal discharge with synchronous activity suppresses elimination of polyneuronal innervation of myofibers. This requires the simultaneous chronic conduction block (tetrodotoxin) and distal electrical stimulation of motor axons during ectopic synaptogenesis in denervated adult soleus muscle. If in fact chronic stimulation is applied without central block of motor axons, the time course of synapse elimination is as fast as in control muscles undergoing natural activity. Our findings follow the prediction of Hebb's postulate and imply that asynchronous activity drives developmental synapse elimination in muscle. They further suggest that motoneurons could become transiently synchronized during development and regeneration, helping to establish the initial polyneuronal innervation.
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