Neuromuscular pathology is a classic hallmark of many diseases such as muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. It is also a feature of many congenital and acquired myopathies and neuropathies such as diabetic neuropathy and toxin-exposure. The availability of experimentally accessible nerve-muscle preparations from rodent models in which pathological events can be studied in nerve and muscle, as well as at the neuromuscular junction, is therefore of fundamental importance for investigating neuromuscular disease. The group of small cranial muscles, which move the ear in the mouse provide ideal experimental preparations for the study of neuromuscular disease in vivo, but information regarding their anatomical and functional characteristics is currently lacking. Here, we provide a detailed description of the levator auris longus, auricularis superior, abductor auris longus and interscutularis muscles. In addition, we briefly review their differential fibre type and developmental characteristics, which can be exploited to aid our understanding of neuromuscular vulnerability and to provide preferable alternatives to more traditional muscle preparations such as gastrocnemius, soleus and diaphragm.
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