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J Neurosci. 1987 Jul;7(7):2145-52.

Transient and chronic neonatal denervation of murine muscle: a procedure to modify the phenotypic expression of muscular dystrophy.


The extensor digitorum longus muscles of 14-d-old normal (129 ReJ ++) and dystrophic (129 ReJ dy/dy) mice were denervated by cutting the sciatic nerve. One denervation protocol was designed to inhibit reinnervation of the shank muscles, the other to promote reinnervation. Chronically denervated muscles (muscles that remained denervated for 100 d after nerve section) exhibited marked atrophy, but the number of myofibers in these muscles (1066 +/- 46 and 931 +/- 62 for the denervated normal and dystrophic muscles, respectively) was similar to the number of myofibers found in age-matched, unoperated normal muscles [922 +/- 28 (Ontell et al., 1984)] and was significantly greater than the number of myofibers found in age-matched dystrophic muscles [547 +/- 45 (Ontell et al., 1984)]. Similar effects on myofiber number were obtained when denervated muscles were allowed to reinnervate. Reinnervation of both normal and dystrophic muscles mitigated the marked atrophy that characterized chronically denervated muscles. The dystrophic reinnervated muscles appeared "healthier" than age-matched, unoperated dystrophic muscles, having 70% more myofibers, less myofiber diameter variability, substantially less connective tissue infiltration, and a greater amount of contractile tissue at their widest girths. The present study demonstrated that it is possible to alter the phenotypic expression of the histopathological changes associated with murine dystrophy, in dystrophic myofibers that are formed during fetal development, by subjecting the muscle to neonatal denervation.

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