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Keywords:

  • masseter muscle;
  • muscle fiber architecture;
  • physiological cross-sectional area;
  • fiber length;
  • muscle plasticity;
  • diet;
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus

Abstract

Dietary consistency has been shown to influence cross-sectional area and fiber type composition of the masticatory muscles. However, little is known about the effects of dietary consistency on masticatory muscle fiber architecture. In this study, we explore the effects of dietary consistency on the internal architecture of rabbit masseter muscle. Because activity patterns of the rabbit chewing muscles show inter- and intramuscular heterogeneity, we evaluate if alterations in fiber architecture are homogeneous across various portions of the superficial masseter muscle. We compared masseter muscle fiber architecture between two groups of weanling rabbits raised on different diets for 105 days. One group was raised on a diet of ground rabbit pellets to model underuse of the masticatory complex, while the other group was fed a diet of intact pellets and hay blocks to model an overuse diet. In all portions of the superficial masseter, physiological cross-sectional areas (PCSAs) are greater in the overuse compared to underuse diet rabbits. Thus, the mechanical demands for larger muscle and bite forces associated with early and prolonged exposure to a tough diet are met by an increase in PCSA of the superficial masseter. The larger PCSA is due entirely to increased muscle mass, as the two rabbit groups show no differences in either fiber length or angle of pinnation. Thus, increasing pinnation angle is not a necessary biomechanical solution to improving muscle and bite force during growth. The change in PCSA but not fiber length suggests that variation in dietary consistency has an impact on maximum force production but not necessarily on excursion or contraction velocity. Anat Rec Part A, 288A:1105–1111, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.