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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1994 Jun;76(6):2663-71.

Activity and motor unit size in partially denervated rat medial gastrocnemius.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


The aim of the study was to determine whether increased motoneuron activity induced by treadmill walking would alter the extent of motoneuron sprouting in the partially denervated rat medial gastrocnemius muscle. An extensive partial denervation was effected by unilateral section of the L5 ventral root, and it is very likely that all units remaining in the medial gastrocnemius were used in treadmill walking. Rats were trained for 1.5 h/day and after 14 days were walking at least 1 km/day. Motor unit characteristics were determined 24 days after the partial denervation and were compared with units from partially denervated control (PDC) animals and with units from normal (control) animals. In PDC rats, force developed by slow, fast fatigue-resistant, and fast intermediate-fatigable motor units increased substantially compared with control animals; that of fast-fatigable units did not increase. In partially denervated exercised animals, force developed by slow and fast-fatigue-resistant units showed no further increase, but fast-intermediate- and fast-fatigable units showed significant increases compared with those in PDC animals. The changes in force were closely paralleled by changes in innervation ratios. We concluded that neuronal activity is an important factor in determining the rate of motoneuron sprouting.

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