Comparison of physiological and histochemical properties of motor units after cross-reinnervation of antagonistic muscles in the cat hindlimb

T. Gordon, C. K. Thomas, R. B. Stein, S. Erdebil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


1. Physiological and histochemical properties of the cat ankle extensor muscles, the lateral and medial gastrocnemius, and the soleus were studied after cross-reinnervation by flexor motoneurons. 2. Tibial and common peroneal nerves were cut and cross-united in the popliteal fossa of 2- to 6-mo-old cats. Eighteen to 24 mo later, single motor units were isolated by dissection and stimulation of ventral root filaments and classified into four types: fast-twitch, fatigable (FF), fast-twitch, fatique-resistant (FR), and slow, fatigue-resistant (S). Muscle fibers were classified as fast glycolytic (FG), fast, oxidative glycolytic (FOG), and slow oxidative (SO) on the basis of histochemical staining. 3. Although motor-unit force was normally well correlated with the size of the innervating motor axon in the cross-reinnervated muscles, the force of different unit types overlapped considerably. The reinnervated motor units also showed a higher than normal degree of fatigability. 4. The range of muscle unit forces in cross-reinnervated triceps surae muscles was the same as in the normally innervated triceps surae muscles. This range is 2-3 times greater than the flexor muscles, which the common peroneal nerve normally supplies. The range of contraction speed of units in the cross-reinnervated extensor muscles was comparable to that in the flexor muscles, consistent with a motoneuron-specific determination of muscle speed. 5. SO and FOG muscle fibers were found in all reinnervated triceps surae muscles, but FG fibers were only found in reinnervated medial gastrocnemius (MG) and lateral gastrocnemius (LG) muscles, consistent with previous findings of the resistance of soleus muscles to complete conversion. Type grouping of muscle fibers was characteristic of the reinnervated muscles. 6. Reinnervated SO muscle fibers were larger than the corresponding fibers in normally innervated muscles as were the estimated number of muscle fibers innervated by slow motor axons. Nonetheless, the force generated by the S motor units remained relatively smaller than FR and FF units. The relative contributions of the number, cross-sectional area and specific tension to the force generation of reinnervated motor units are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-378
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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