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Prog Brain Res. 2010;187:63-80. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53613-6.00005-8.

Limb, respiratory, and masticatory muscle compartmentalization: developmental and hormonal considerations.

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Department of Orthodontics, University of Florida College of Dentistry, JHMHSC, Gainesville, Florida, USA.


Neuromuscular compartments are subvolumes of muscle that have unique biomechanical actions and can be activated singly or in groups to perform the necessary task. Besides unique biomechanical actions, other evidence that supports the neuromuscular compartmentalization of muscles includes segmental reflexes that preferentially excite motoneurons from the same compartment, proportions of motor unit types that differ among compartments, and a central partitioning of motoneurons that innervate each compartment. The current knowledge regarding neuromuscular compartments in representative muscles involved in locomotion, respiration, and mastication is presented to compare and contrast these different motor systems. Developmental features of neuromuscular compartment formation in these three motor systems are reviewed to identify when these compartments are formed, their innervation patterns, and the process of refinement to achieve the adult phenotype. Finally, the role of androgen modulation of neuromuscular compartment maturation in representative muscles of these motor systems is reviewed and the impact of testosterone on specific myosin heavy chain fiber types is discussed based on recent data. In summary, neuromuscular compartments are pre-patterned output elements in muscle that undergo refinement of compartment boundaries and muscle fiber phenotype during maturation. Further studies are needed to understand how these output elements are selectively controlled during locomotion, respiration, and mastication.

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