Influence of terminal nerve branch size on motor neuron regeneration accuracy.
A necessary prerequisite for recovery of motor function following a peripheral nerve injury is the correct choice by regenerating motor neurons to reinnervate the original distal nerve branch to denervated muscle. The present studies use the mouse femoral nerve as a model system to examine factors that influence such motor neuron regeneration accuracy. We examined motor reinnervation accuracy over time in this model under two conditions: 1) when the two terminal nerve branches to either skin (cutaneous) or muscle (quadriceps) were roughly comparable in size, and 2) when the cutaneous branch was larger than the muscle branch. When the terminal nerve branches were similar in size, motor neurons initially projected equally into both branches, but over time favored the terminal muscle branch. When the cutaneous terminal nerve branch was enlarged (via transgenic technology), motor neuron projections significantly favored this inappropriate pathway during early time points of regeneration. These results suggest that regenerating motor neuron projections are not determined by inherent molecular differences between distal terminal nerve branches themselves. Rather, we propose a two-step process that shapes motor neuron reinnervation accuracy. Initial outgrowth choices made by motor axons at the transection site are proportional to the relative amount of target nerve associated with distal nerve axons that previously projected to each of the terminal nerve pathways. Secondly, the likelihood of an axon collateral from a motor neuron remaining in either terminal nerve branch is based upon the relative trophic support provided to the parent motor neuron by the competing terminal pathways and/or end-organs.
Robinson, GA; Madison, RD
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