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J Neurol Sci. 2000 Sep 15;178(2):95-106.

Intermuscular and intramuscular differences in myosin heavy chain composition of the human masticatory muscles.

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  • 1Department of Functional Anatomy, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Among and within the human masticatory muscles a large number of anatomical differences exists indicating that different muscles and muscle portions are specialized for certain functions. In the present study we investigated whether such a specialization is also reflected by intermuscular and intramuscular differences in fibre type composition and fibre cross-sectional area. Fibre type compositions and fibre cross-sectional areas of masticatory muscles were determined in eight cadavers using monoclonal antibodies against myosin heavy chain (MyHC). The temporalis, masseter and pterygoid muscles could be characterized by a relatively large number of fibres containing more than one MyHC isoform (hybrid fibres). In these muscles a large number of fibres expressed MyHC-I, MyHC-fetal and MyHC-cardiac alpha. Furthermore, in these muscles type I fibres had larger cross-sectional areas than type II fibres. In contrast, the mylohyoid, geniohyoid and digastric muscle were characterized by less hybrid fibres, and by less fibres expressing MyHC-I, MyHC-fetal, and MyHC-cardiac alpha, and by more fibres expressing MyHC-IIA; the cross-sectional areas of type I and type II fibres in these muscles did not differ significantly. Compared to the masseter and pterygoid muscles, the temporalis had significantly larger fibres and a notably different fibre type composition. The mylohyoid, geniohyoid, and digastric muscles did not differ significantly in their MyHC composition and fibre cross-sectional areas. Also intramuscular differences in fibre type composition were present, i.e., a regionally higher proportion of MyHC type I fibres was found in the anterior temporalis, the deep masseter, and the anterior medial pterygoid muscle portions; furthermore, significant differences were found between the bellies of the digastric.

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