Proper development of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is essential for synaptic transmission and hence coordinated muscle function. The complex, yet precise, organization of molecular machinery is necessary for proper presynaptic neurotransmitter release and for postsynaptic detection. The NMJ is an excellent model to dissect mechanisms of synaptogenesis, because it has the experimental advantages of being simple and accessible. Many principles that control NMJ formation have proven to be relevant in other types of synapses. Studies in the genetic model organisms, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, have led to fundamental advances in our molecular understanding of in vivo NMJ development. In this chapter, we first describe the architecture of the Drosophila and C. elegans NMJs. We then briefly summarize the methodology used to analyze the invertebrate NMJs. Finally, we review specific findings in synaptic target recognition, synaptic assembly, and growth.
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