Morphological study of two human facial muscles: orbicularis oculi and corrugator supercilii

Clin Anat. 1999;12(1):1-11. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2353(1999)12:1<1::AID-CA1>3.0.CO;2-J.


Human facial muscles are unique in that they do not cross joints and they function either to open and close the apertures of the face or to tug the skin into intricate movements producing facial expressions. Compared to other skeletal muscles of the body, little is known about the microscopic architecture and organization of facial muscles. It was hypothesized that facial muscles with different roles would possess differences in their cellular organization and morphology that would reflect their unique function. The palpebral orbicularis oculi (oo) and the corrugator supercilii (cs) were studied because they are in close topographical proximity to one another and share the same nerve supply and embryonic origin. This study compared the two muscles which were procured as biopsies from cosmetic surgery procedures. Architectural and morphological features were elucidated using a combination of conventional histological stains, immunocytochemistry and histochemistry. Quantitative measures of fiber sizes, shapes, and fiber-type distributions were performed along with measures of capillary area per unit of contractile area (capillary index). Fiber-type profiles and motor end-plates were demonstrated by using antibodies to fast and slow myosins, as well as to neurofilament protein. The oo was shown to differ significantly from the cs on the basis of fiber shapes, sizes, and types. The oo muscle fibers were small, rounded, and 89% of them were of the fast-twitch (Type II) variety. The muscle fibers in the cs were larger, polygonal, and only 49% of them were of the fast-twitch variety. The capillary index of the cs was 2.4 times that of the oo.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Facial Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Facial Muscles / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / enzymology
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • NADH Tetrazolium Reductase / metabolism


  • NADH Tetrazolium Reductase
  • Myosins