Adaptations of masticatory muscles to a hyperpropulsive appliance in the rat

Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1996 Dec;110(6):612-7. doi: 10.1016/s0889-5406(96)80037-0.


The plasticity of masticatory muscles was studied by comparing rats that were wearing a protrusive appliance and were kept on a liquid diet with two control groups: (1) pair-fed rats and (2) rats that had free access to ordinary pelleted food. The animals were 45 days old at the beginning of the experiment and were studied for a period of 20 days. Three jaw muscles with different functions were examined: masseter, temporalis, and digastric. Muscle fiber composition was determined (1) by fiber counting after staining with four monoclonal antibodies, which were able to recognize the four major myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms and therefore four fiber types (I, IIA, IIX, IIB) and (2) by electrophoresis on 6% polyacrylamide gels. The comparison between free-diet rats and pair-fed rats showed that the change from a hard pelleted diet to a liquid diet caused a shift in fiber type and MHC distribution, characterized by an increase of IIB MHC in temporalis and digastric muscles but not in the masseter muscle. The comparison between pair-fed rats and rats wearing appliances showed on the contrary a decrease in IIB MHC and an increase in IIA and IIX MHC. The results support the conclusions that (1) rat jaw muscles can quickly adapt to functional demand changing their fiber type composition, (2) the changes appear restricted inside the fast fiber population, and (3) fiber-type changes caused by dietary variation are not less than those caused by orthodontic intervention and must be taken into account to assess the effect of the appliance correctly.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Food, Formulated
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle / chemistry
  • Masseter Muscle / physiology
  • Masticatory Muscles / chemistry
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / chemistry
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / analysis
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / physiology
  • Neck Muscles / chemistry
  • Neck Muscles / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Orthodontic Appliances*
  • Rats
  • Temporal Muscle / chemistry
  • Temporal Muscle / physiology


  • Myosin Heavy Chains