Muscle-spindle distribution in relation to the fibre-type composition of masseter in mammals

J Anat. 1988 Dec;161:37-60.


The various parts of the masseter muscle complex (pars superficialis, pars profunda, zygomaticomandibularis, maxillomandibularis) in the rat, guinea-pig, rabbit, cat and macaque monkey were examined to discover whether they showed any relationship between the distribution of muscle spindles and extrafusal fibre types. Intrafusal (spindle) and extrafusal fibre types in masseter were compared with those in limb muscles and were identified by a combination of standard histochemical methods and indirect immunoperoxidase staining with antibodies specific for the various isoforms of myosin characteristic of fibre types in mammalian muscle. In general, the fibre-type properties of intrafusal fibres in masseter resembled those in limb muscle spindles, but the extrafusal fibre-type composition was unlike that in most limb muscles. In the rat masseter, most of the spindles were clustered together in a few very restricted areas. Extensive fusion of the external capsules of adjacent spindles, resulting in the formation of giant spindles, was seen in the cat and monkey masseter; this was sometimes accompanied by the enclosure of extrafusal fibres within the fused spindles. Common to all species, but strongest of all in the rat, was a close association between the distributions of muscle spindles and extrafusal Type I (slow twitch) fibres within the masseter complex. Muscle spindles and Type I fibres were either absent or rarest in the superficial part of masseter, but were most common in the deep layer (pars profunda) or zygomaticomandibularis. The functional significance of these observations is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats / anatomy & histology
  • Guinea Pigs / anatomy & histology
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology*
  • Masseter Muscle / anatomy & histology*
  • Masticatory Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle Spindles / anatomy & histology*
  • Rabbits / anatomy & histology
  • Rats / anatomy & histology