Segmental sensory innervation of the anterior cruciate ligament and the patellar tendon of the cat's knee

Acta Orthop Scand. 1996 Dec;67(6):545-52. doi: 10.3109/17453679608997753.


We performed a study in cats to describe and quantify the segmental sensory innervation of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. We also studied the patellar tendon to show that transport occurs from an extraarticular, dense connective tissue structure and to obtain comparable quantitative information. We injected a tracer (horseradish peroxidase HRP, coupled to wheat germ agglutinin WGA) in the anterior cruciate ligament and observed the reaction product in the articular nerves of the injected knee and in the cell bodies of ipsilateral dorsal root ganglia. In these experiments, we found an average of 26 (13-52) labeled neurons, mostly large, after injecting the anterior cruciate. More than half of the labeled neurons were found in the dorsal root ganglion of L7 (last lumbar segment in the cat). We counted an average of 204 (17-426) labeled neurons, mostly small, after injecting the patellar tendon. More than half of these labeled neurons were found in the L5 spinal ganglion. No product was observed in contralateral spinal ganglia. Surgical ablation of the medial and lateral articular nerves (MAN and LAN) before injecting HRP-WGA in the anterior cruciate ligament, showed that the remaining afferents in the posterior articular nerve (PAN) projected mainly to L7. After excision of PAN, the projection was maintained through MAN and LAN, mostly to L5. Our quantitative data show that the anterior cruciate ligament is poorly innervated, if compared to the patellar tendon. The anterior cruciate segmental sensory innervation is directed to L7 (corresponding to the main ventral root forming the sciatic nerve in the cat), but also to L5 and L6 (main femoral nerve ventral roots). These segmental data indicate that anterior cruciate innervation influences muscle tone regulation, not only of the hamstrings (neuromuscular system of the sciatic nerve), but also of the quadriceps muscle (neuromuscular system of the femoral nerve).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / innervation*
  • Cats
  • Denervation
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Knee / innervation
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Patellar Ligament / innervation*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Horseradish Peroxidase