The topographic specificity of muscle reinnervation predicts function

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5 Scopus citations


Functional testing has assumed a progressively dominant role in validating the success of experimental nerve repair. Results obtained in one model, however, cannot predict the results in others because they reflect the coordinated interaction of several muscles across multiple joints. As a result, many combinations of topographically correct and incorrect muscle reinnervation could produce the same result. We have developed a binary model in which elbow flexors and extensors are reinnervated, and elbow flexion and extension are the functions tested. The musculocutaneous and radial nerves of Lister-Hooded rats were subjected to axonotmetic injuries that produced increasing degrees of axonal misdirection at the site of injury ranging from simple crush to transection and rotational offset of proximal and distal stumps. Elbow function was tested with a device that requires coordinated elbow extension to reach sugar pellets and flexion to return them to the mouth. After 12 weeks of regeneration, motoneurons projecting to the distal musculocutaneous nerve were retrogradely labelled with WGA-Ruby and scored regarding their location within musculocutaneous or radial motoneuron pools. The severity of axonal misdirection resulting from the initial surgery was mirrored by progressive degrees of inappropriate reinnervation of the musculocutaneous nerve by radial nerve axons. The specificity of reinnervation predicted elbow function (r = 0.72), whereas the number of motoneurons regenerating did not. This model is thus well suited to study the interaction of regeneration specificity and function across a single joint, and to produce data that can be generalized more broadly than those obtained from more complex models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-450
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Lister-Hooded rat
  • Montoya staircase
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Retrograde labelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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