Immunohistochemical Detection of Motor Endplates in the Long-Term Denervated Muscle

Liancai Mu, Jingming Chen, Jing Li, Themba Nyirenda, Mary Fowkes, Stanislaw Sobotka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background We have demonstrated that the native motor zone (NMZ) within a muscle is an ideal target for performing nerve-muscle-endplate band grafting (NMEG) to restore motor function of a denervated muscle. This study was designed to determine spatiotemporal alterations of the myofibers, motor endplates (MEPs), and axons in the NMZ of long-term denervated muscles for exploring if NMEG-NMZ technique would have the potential for delayed reinnervation. Methods Sternomastoid (SM) muscles of adult female Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 21) were experimentally denervated and denervation-induced changes in muscle weight, myofiber size, MEPs, and intramuscular nerve axons were evaluated histomorphometrically and immunohistochemically at the end of 3, 6, and 9 months after denervation. The values obtained from the ipsilateral normal side served as control. Results The denervated SM muscles exhibited a progressive reduction in muscle weight (38%, 31%, and 19% of the control) and fiber diameter (52%, 40%, and 28% of the control) for 3-, 6-, and 9-month denervation, respectively. The denervated MEPs were still detectable even 9 months after denervation. The mean number of the denervated MEPs was 79%, 65%, and 43% of the control in the 3-, 6-, and 9-month denervated SM, respectively. Degenerated axons in the denervated muscles became fragmented. Conclusions Persistence of MEPs in the long-term denervated SM suggests that some surgeries targeting the MEPs such as NMEG-NMZ technique should be effective for delayed reinnervation. However, more work is needed to develop strategies for preservation of muscle mass and MEPs after denervation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-358
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Reconstructive Microsurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • acetylcholine receptor
  • denervation
  • motor endplate
  • muscle atrophy
  • native motor zone
  • peripheral nerve injury


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