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Keywords:

  • axotomy;
  • motoneuronal death;
  • denervation;
  • motor unit;
  • fatigability;
  • maximum tetanic tension;
  • development

Abstract

After axonal injury on postnatal day 14 (P14), but not P21, motoneurons in the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB) do not display their normal response to circulating testosterone levels. This could result from a permanent disruption of communication between motoneurons and their testosterone-sensitive target muscles. We assessed the extent of reinnervation of one of these target muscles, the levator ani (LA) muscle, 5 months after the pudendal nerve was cut either on P14 or P21. The number of motoneurons innervating the LA in control and nerve cut animals was determined using retrograde labeling procedures. Functional recovery of the LA muscle was determined via the testing of its in situ contractile properties. Compared to control muscles, reinnervated LA muscles were smaller, had fewer muscle fibers, generated a lower maximum tetanic tension, and were more fatigable. In spite of the fact that fewer motoneurons reinnervated the LA muscle after nerve cut on P14 than on P21, there were no differences in the weight or contractile properties of the LA muscle between these two groups. These data suggest that motoneurons that survived injury on P14 innervated more muscle fibers than normal and exhibited a similar ability to functionally reinnervate the target muscle as those motoneurons that survived injury on P21. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol, 2005