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Keywords:

  • Disuse;
  • Soft diet;
  • Aging;
  • Masseter muscle;
  • Motoneuron;
  • Cell size;
  • Enzyme activity

Abstract

To determine the effect of a soft diet and aging on the masticatory motor unit, we investigated the morphologic and metabolic properties of the superficial masseter muscle and its motoneurons in rats. Twenty rats were divided into four groups of five rats: rats fed a hard diet until 4 months after birth (hard, young), rats fed a soft diet until 4 months after birth (soft, young), rats fed a hard diet until 22 months after birth (hard, old), and rats fed a soft diet until 22 months after birth (soft, old). The diameter of the fast-twitch oxidative glycolytic muscle fiber was significantly smaller in the soft than the hard, and in the old than the young groups. The glycolytic enzyme (phosphofructokinase) activity of the muscle was significantly weaker in the old than the young group. There was no significant difference in soma diameter of the motoneurons between the soft and hard group, while the diameter was significantly larger in the old than in the young group. There was no significant difference in NADH-diaphorase activity of the motoneurons between the soft and hard group, while significantly less activity was demonstrated in the old than in the young group. The reduction in motor unit activity caused by the soft diet is considered to influence the morphologic and metabolic properties in the superficial masseter muscle but not in its motoneurons. The reduction in the oxidative enzyme activity of motoneurons with aging may occur regardless of the reduction in motor unit activity. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.