Transneuronal induction of muscle atrophy in grasshoppers

J Neurobiol. 1991 Jul;22(5):536-46. doi: 10.1002/neu.480220509.


Autotomy is a process in grasshoppers whereby one or both hindlimbs can be shed to escape a predator or can be abandoned if damaged. It occurs between the trochanter and the femur (second and third leg segments) and once lost, the legs never regenerate. Autotomy severs branches of the leg nerve (N5) but damages no muscles since none span the autotomy plane. We find, however, that undamaged muscles intrinsic to the thorax of grasshoppers, Barytettix psolus, atrophy to less than 15% of their normal mass after autotomy of a hindlimb. These muscles operate the coxa and trochanter (first and second leg segments) and are innervated by branches of nerves 3 and 4; nerve branches that are not damaged by autotomy. Atrophy is localized to the side and body segment where autotomy occurs. Atrophy is evident 7-10 days after loss of a limb, is complete by about 30 days, and follows a similar time course whether induced in young adult, or sexually mature grasshoppers. During autotomy, leg nerve 5 is served distal to the trochanter, the thoracic muscles lose their normal static and dynamic load, and these muscles are subsequently no longer used to support the weight of the insect during posture and locomotion. Experimental loading and unloading of the affected muscles, and cutting of nerves indicated that it is the severing of leg nerve 5 during autotomy that transneuronally induces muscle atrophy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Grasshoppers / physiology*
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Male
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology*
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Neurons / physiology*