To test whether palisade endings are a general feature of mammalian extraocular muscles (EOMs).
Thirteen species, some frontal-eyed (human, monkey, cat, and ferret), and others lateral-eyed (pig, sheep, calf, horse, rabbit, rat, mouse, gerbil, and guinea pig) were analyzed. Palisade endings were labeled by using different combinations of immunofluorescence techniques. Three-dimensional reconstructions of immunolabeled palisade endings were done.
In all frontal-eyed species, palisade endings were a consistent feature in the rectus EOMs. Their total number was high and they exhibited an EOM-specific distribution. In particular, the number of palisade endings in the medial recti was significantly higher than in the other rectus muscles. In the lateral-eyed animals, palisade endings were infrequent and, when present, their total number was rather low. They were only found in ungulates (sheep, calf, pig, and horse) and in rabbit. In rodents (rat, guinea pig, mouse, and gerbil) palisade endings were found infrequently (e.g., rat) or were completely absent. Palisade endings in frontal-eyed species and in some lateral-eyed species (pig, sheep, calf, and horse) had a uniform morphology. They generally lacked α-bungarotoxin staining, with a few exceptions in primates. Palisade endings in other lateral-eyed species (rabbit and rat) exhibited a simplified morphology and bound α-bungarotoxin.
Palisade endings are not a universal feature of mammalian EOMs. So, if they are proprioceptors, not all species require them. Because in frontal-eyed species, the medial rectus muscle has the highest number of palisade endings, they likely play a special role in convergence.