Ultrasound Stimulation Inhibits Morphological Degeneration of Motor Endplates in the Denervated Skeletal Muscle of Rats

Neurosci Insights. 2022 Nov 19;17:26331055221138508. doi: 10.1177/26331055221138508. eCollection 2022.


Recovery of motor function after peripheral nerve injury requires treatment of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), as well as the injured nerve and skeletal muscle. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of ultrasound (US) stimulation on NMJ degeneration after denervation using a rat model of peroneal nerve transection. Twelve-week-old male Wistar rats were randomly assigned to 3 groups: US stimulation, sham stimulation, and intact. US or sham stimulation was performed on the left tibialis anterior (TA) muscle starting the day after peroneal nerve transection for 5 minutes daily under anesthesia. Four weeks later, the number and morphology of the motor endplates were analyzed to assess NMJ in the TA muscle. The endplates were classified as normal, partially fragmented, or fully fragmented for morphometric analysis. In addition, the number of terminal Schwann cells (tSCs) per endplate and percentage of endplates with tSCs (tSC retention percentage) were calculated to evaluate the effect of tSCs on NMJs. Our results showed that endplates degenerated 4 weeks after transection, with a decrease in the normal type and an increase in the fully fragmented type in both the US and sham groups compared to the intact group. Furthermore, the US group showed significant suppression of the normal type decrease and a fully fragmented type increase compared to the sham group. These results suggest that US stimulation inhibits endplate degeneration in denervated TA muscles. In contrast, the number of endplates and tSC and tSC retention percentages were not significantly different between the US and sham groups. Further investigations are required to determine the molecular mechanisms by which US stimulation suppresses degeneration.

Keywords: Peripheral nerve; denervation; neuromuscular junction; peroneal nerve; pretzel; terminal Schwann cell.