Lab Project: Build a Limb (Neuron Part

For this portion of my lab project I will be constructing a sensory neuron, interneuron, and motor neuron, as well as demonstrating a nerve impulse. I will show an axon in a resting potential and action potential state, and be revealing the sliding filament model found in muscle fibers. My goal of this presentation is to show the multiple steps associated with muscle contractions. Some of the various products I will be using to construct the neurons, demonstrate the sodium/potassium gates, and explain the sliding filament model are pictured below.

Pic from Human Biology Pg 229-34

A Little Background on Muscles

Skeleton muscles support the body, make bones move, helps maintain body temperature, assist cardiovascular veins and lymphatic vessels, protects internal organs, and they stabilize joints. The muscles are compiled of bundles of fiber called fascicles and are covered in connective tissue called fascia which becomes the tendon beyond the muscle. The part of the muscle connected to bone that is stationary is known as origin; the part of the muscle connected to bone that moves is known as insertion.

How does a Muscle Fiber Contract? Contraction of muscle fibers (muscle cells) is from motor neuron stimulation. Every motor neurons branch (axon branches) lies close to muscle fibers sarcolemma (plasma membrane). This is known as a neuromuscular junction. The end of the motor neurons branch is known as an axon terminal and contain acetylcholine (neurotransmitter) which are released via synaptic vesicle when the axon terminal receives a nerve impulse. The Ach binds to sarcolemma receptors which trigger the sarcolemma to send impulses down the T tubules (branches off sarcolemma that cause Ca²+ to release) to the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Sarcomere contraction follows after the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.

Myelin Sheath

Nodes of Ranvier
Axon Terminals

The nervous system has 3 important functions: to receive sensory input, perform integration, and generate motor output. Neurons - cells responsible for transmission of nerve impulses. Consist of a body containing the nucleus and organelles, dendrites which are short extensions that receive signals, and an axon which conducts impulses. The 3 types of neurons are sensory neurons (transports impulses to CNS), interneurons (receive messages and convey to motor neurons), and motor neurons (transports impulses from CNS to muscle). Sensory neurons detect changes in their environment from sensory receptors. Long axons are covered by myelin sheath’s which is a protective insulating phospholipid layer composed of Myelin (80% lipid fat / 20% protein). The gaps along axons where there is no myelin wrapped around it is called nodes of Ranvier, named after Louis-Antoine Ranvier who discovered it around 1878. A neuroglia known as Schwann cells (contain myelin in membrane) are responsible for the protection of long axons in the PNS, whereas oligodendrocytes protect the long axon’s in the CNS. Myelin gives a white appearance.

Motor Neuron with orange Dendrites

Sensory Neuron Cell Body


Interneuron with purple Dendrites

Myelin Sheath made from Schwann Cells

Axon Sensory Receptors

Different Types of Neurons:
A. Sensory neuron has a long axon covered by a myelin sheath that takes nerve impulses all the way from dendrites to the CNS. B. In the CNS, some interneurons, such as this one, have a short axon that is not covered by a myelin sheath. C. A motor neuron has a long axon covered by a myelin sheath that takes nerve impulses from the CNS to an effector.

Picture & Verbiage from Human Biology Page 249

Resting Potential

Nerve impulses send messages throughout the whole nervous system. An axon is either resting or active; thus, they are either in the resting potential or the active potential state. A voltmeter can record which state the nerve is in by measuring the negativity of the inside of a neuron compared to its outside.

• No impulse conducting within axon • Inside more negative than outside • About -60 to -70 millivolts • Dissimilarity in ion dispersal on either side of membrane • Dissimilar dispersal is due to sodium-potassium pump which maintains appropriate concentrations of sodium and potassium intracellular and extracellular
Pictures from Human Biology Pg 250

Action Potential • Nerve impulses occur; change in polarity • Inside less negative than outside • About +40 millivolts • Inward sodium exceeds outward potassium, causing depolarization of membrane potential • Threshold is reached around 15 millivolts above resting membrane potential • Repolarization occurs as potassium leaves axon


Inside Axon

Nerve Impulse
Axonal Membrane

1. This picture shows an axon in resting potential; having a difference in sodium and potassium ions between the outside and inside of the axon. Since the axon is not conducting an impulse, the inside has a negative charge.

Inside Axon Outside Axon

Inside Axon

2. This picture shows an axon in action potential. The sodium gates have opened (red licorice) and sodium (green licorice bits) is moving in to the axon. The charge inside the axon is now changing from negative to positive (depolarization).
Outside Axon

3. This picture shows the action potential ending. The sodium gates closed and the potassium gates have opened. Potassium is flowing out of the axon causing the negative charge in the axon to return (repolarization).
Outside Axon

Pic from Human Biology Pg 251

Propagation of an Action Potential
Action potentials can be transmitted along the nodes by way of saltatory conduction, where each action potential generates another by jumping. To ensure that nerve impulses (active potentials) always travel down an axon to the end, the axon undergoes a refractory period where the sodium gates cannot open.

1 5 2 6 3 7 4

Pictures from Human Biology Pg 233

Sarcolemma: Plasma Membrane Sarcoplasm: Cytoplasm; contains organelles, glycogen (energy) and myoglobin (stores oxygen). Sarcoplasmic Reticulum: Endoplasmic Reticulum T Tubule: Tubes that dip into muscle fibers sarcoplasm to contact reticulum with impulses (for Ca²+ release). Myofibrils: Contractile parts of fibers, encased by reticulum.

Skeletal Muscle up Close

In each myofibril are sarcomeres between two lines (z lines) and contain two protein myofilaments: thick filament (myosin) and thin filament (actin). The I band contains only actin, the H zone contains only myosin, the A band contains both overlapping.


Skeletal Muscle Fiber
Sarcolemma: white grip shelf liner T tubule: blue licorice Skeletal Muscle Fiber

One Myofibril

Pic from Human Biology Pg 229

Nucleus: red Life Savers

Myofibrils: yellow and orange licorice

Sarcoplasmic reticulum (responsible for calcium release): paper towel cardboard

Muscle Contractions Start with Sarcomeres




Sarcomere has shortened due to myofibril contracting


Z Line


One Myofibril

1. Impulse travels down T tubules 2. Sarcoplasmic reticulum releases calcium

The thick filaments are constructed from molecules of a protein called myosin. Each sarcomeres has globular heads extending out the ends but not in the middle. These extensions are known as cross-bridge. The thin filaments are constructed from intertwining strands of the protein called actin. Once broken down by myosin, ATP supplies the necessary energy for contraction. The cross-bridges on myosin pull actin towards the center. This process is known as the sliding filament model.

3. Muscle fibers contract; sarcomeres/myofibrils shorten (thin filament slides past thick filament).

Pic from Human Biology Pg 235

Taking a closer look at the ACTIN filament!

When the sarcoplasmic reticulum releases Ca²+ it binds with troponin, a protein found along the actin filament. Once the binding occurs between the Ca²+ and troponin, the protein threads called tropomyosin shift on the actin filament exposing the myosin binding sites. This process now allows myosin and actin to bind. Troponin Myosin Binding Sites


Actin Filament


Once the myosin binding sites are exposed ATP is hydrolyzed to the myosin head. The ATP is then split into ADP and P (phosphate) allowing the myosin heads to attach to the actin’s binding sites forming the cross-bridges. Once the ADP and P are released, the cross-bridges bend and pull the actin filaments inwards. This is known as the power stroke. The cross-bridges are broken when the myosin head binds to ATP molecules again.

In this part of my lab experiment I have explained what a muscle is composed of and the steps involved with how a muscle contracts. I have broken down a neuron and explained the function of its axon, the function of sodium and potassium in an action potential, and the propagation of an action potential along the axon. I have demonstrated a muscle cell, its components, and how the components contribute to the process of muscle contraction. This was a fun and informational part of the lab project, and I believe it will help give a better understanding of moveable limb portion of the lab which is coming up soon!

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