Interaction of inactivity and nerve breakdown products in the origin of acute denervation changes in rat skeletal muscle

J Physiol. 1984 Oct;355:345-65. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1984.sp015423.


The action of nerve breakdown products on innervated fibres of soleus and extensor digitorum longus muscles was investigated with the following procedures: partial denervation, sensory or sympathetic denervation, section of a previously transplanted foreign nerve. Each procedure was performed either in isolation or combined with chronic muscle inactivity obtained by blocking impulse conduction along the sciatic nerve. Silastic cuffs containing tetrodotoxin (TTX) and sodium chloride were utilized for the block. Partial denervation induced extrajunctional sensitivity to acetylcholine (ACh) and resistance to tetrodotoxin not only in the denervated but also in the innervated fibres. The effects in the innervated fibres were equal in magnitude to those in the denervated fibres, provided they were paralysed. The onset of the membrane changes was synchronous in the two classes of fibres and their amount correlated with the extent of partial denervation. If the innervated fibres were normally active, the membrane changes were still detectable, but considerably smaller than in the denervated fibres. Sensory denervation (removal of dorsal root ganglia L4 and L5) was followed by the development of moderate ACh supersensitivity and TTX resistance in chronically paralysed muscles. Furthermore, section of radicular nerves (total denervation, i.e. efferent plus afferent) induced larger membrane changes than those observed following section of ventral roots alone (efferent denervation). Sympathetic denervation was ineffective even when associated with chronic muscle paralysis. Section of a previously transplanted mixed nerve (superficial fibular) was ineffective if the soleus muscle was normally active, while it induced marked extrajunctional ACh sensitivity and TTX resistance when combined with chronic paralysis of the muscle. Section of a transplanted sensory nerve (sural) also induced extrajunctional membrane changes in paralysed soleus muscles, but their magnitude was much smaller than after section of mixed nerves. We conclude that products of nerve destruction, especially those of motor axons, induce membrane changes of striking magnitude when potentiated by muscle inactivity. Such an action may also explain the greater efficacy of denervation vs. pure inactivity, at least at early times after their onset.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Muscle Denervation*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Neurons / transplantation
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology
  • Rats
  • Sympathectomy
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Dexamethasone
  • Acetylcholine