Organization of motor units following cross-reinnervation of antagonistic muscles in the cat hind limb

J Physiol. 1986 May;374:443-56. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1986.sp016090.


Peripheral reorganization of nerve and muscle properties was studied following misdirection of regenerating axons to foreign muscles. The tibial nerve, which innervates all of the distal extensor muscles, was cross-united with the common peroneal nerve, which innervates all of the distal flexor muscles, in one hind limb of seven 2-6 month old cats. After 18-24 months the properties of the motor units in the reinnervated triceps surae muscles were studied by dissection and stimulation of the ventral root filaments. The normal size relationships were re-established in reinnervated medial gastrocnemius (m.g.) and lateral gastrocnemius-soleus (l.g.s.) muscles in so far as motor unit force was directly correlated with the extracellularly recorded amplitude of the axon potential and with contractile speed. The range of sizes of motor units in reinnervated m.g. and l.g.s. muscles was similar to normal, both in terms of the muscle unit size (determined by measuring tetanic tension) and axon size (determined from the amplitude of the extracellularly recorded action potential). The amplitude of the axon potentials in the crossed nerves was weakly correlated with calculated conduction velocities because of the variation in the conduction delays across the suture line. As axon potential amplitude is a direct function of axon size at the recording site, it provided a reliable measure of regenerating axon size. Motor units were classified as slow (s.), fast fatigue resistant (f.r.), fast intermediate (f.i.) or fast fatigable (f.f.) by their contractile speed and fatigue properties. Tetanic tensions generally increased from slow to fast units with s. less than f.r. less than f.i. less than f.f. in reinnervated and normally innervated muscles, but the overlap between different unit types was considerably greater in reinnervated muscles. Thus, peripheral reorganization of nerve and muscle properties according to size can occur in reinnervated muscles, irrespective of the source of the regenerating nerves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Hindlimb / innervation
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Peroneal Nerve / physiology
  • Tibial Nerve / physiology