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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Mar;86(3):779-86.

An overview of phrenic nerve and diaphragm muscle development in the perinatal rat.

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Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2S2.


In this overview, we outline what is known regarding the key developmental stages of phrenic nerve and diaphragm formation in perinatal rats. These developmental events include the following. Cervical axons emerge from the spinal cord during embryonic (E) day 11. At approximately E12.5, phrenic and brachial axons from the cervical segments merge at the brachial plexi. Subsequently, the two populations diverge as phrenic axons continue to grow ventrally toward the diaphragmatic primordium and brachial axons turn laterally to grow into the limb bud. A few pioneer axons extend ahead of the majority of the phrenic axonal population and migrate along a well-defined track toward the primordial diaphragm, which they reach by E13.5. The primordial diaphragmatic muscle arises from the pleuroperitoneal fold, a triangular protrusion of the body wall composed of the fusion of the primordial pleuroperitoneal and pleuropericardial tissues. The phrenic nerve initiates branching within the diaphragm at approximately E14, when myoblasts in the region of contact with the phrenic nerve begin to fuse and form distinct primary myotubes. As the nerve migrates through the various sectors of the diaphragm, myoblasts along the nerve's path begin to fuse and form additional myotubes. The phrenic nerve intramuscular branching and concomitant diaphragmatic myotube formation continue to progress up until E17, at which time the mature pattern of innervation and muscle architecture are approximated. E17 is also the time of the commencement of inspiratory drive transmission to phrenic motoneurons (PMNs) and the arrival of phrenic afferents to the motoneuron pool. During the period spanning from E17 to birth (gestation period of approximately 21 days), there is dramatic change in PMN morphology as the dendritic branching is rearranged into the rostrocaudal bundling characteristic of mature PMNs. This period is also a time of significant changes in PMN passive membrane properties, action-potential characteristics, and firing properties.

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