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J Neurosci. 1996 Sep 15;16(18):5698-703.

Reinnervation accuracy of the rat femoral nerve by motor and sensory neurons.

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  • 1Divison of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Previous studies in the rat femoral nerve have shown that regenerating motor neurons preferentially reinnervate a terminal nerve branch to muscle as opposed to skin, a process that has been called preferential motor reinnervation. However, the ability of sensory afferent neurons to accurately reinnervate terminal nerve pathways has been controversial. Within the dorsal root ganglia, sensory neurons projecting to muscle are interspersed with sensory neurons projecting to skin. Thus, anatomical studies assessing the accuracy of sensory neuron regeneration have been hampered by the inability to reliably determine their original innervation status. A sensory neuron that regenerated an axon into a terminal nerve branch to muscle might represent either an appropriate return of an original sensory afferent to muscle stretch receptors or the inappropriate recruitment of a cutaneous sensory afferent that originally innervated skin. The current experiments used a labeling strategy that effectively labels motor and sensory neurons projecting to a terminal nerve branch before experimental manipulation of the parent mixed nerve. Our results confirm previous observations concerning preferential motor reinnervation for motor neurons, and show for the first time anatomical evidence of specificity during regeneration of sensory afferent projections to muscle. In addition, the accuracy of sensory afferent regeneration was highly correlated with the accuracy of motor regeneration. This suggests that these two distinct neuronal populations that project to muscle respond in parallel to specific guidance factors during the regeneration process.

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