Properties of motor units of the frog sartorius muscle.

A. R. Luff, U. Proske

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1. The mechanical properties of single motor units in the sartorius muscle of the frog Litoria aurea were examined during single shock and repetitive stimulation of motor axons. 2. The tetanic tension developed by motor units lay in the range 1‐40% of whole muscle tension with two peaks in the distribution, in the range 5‐10% and 25‐30%. The large units had briefer times‐to‐peak for the twitch than the small units and were more readily fatigued during prolonged repetitive stimulation. 3. Histological examination of the muscle gave a count of 620 muscle fibres with a diameter range of 28‐128 mum. Cholinesterase stained preparations showed that the majority of muscle fibres had several nerve terminals (mean 3, range 1‐5). 4. Muscle fibres received their multiple innervation from different axons (polyneuronal) or branches of the same axon (multiterminal). The presence of polyneuronal innervation of muscle fibres was confirmed by a comparison of the tensions when each of a pair of motor units was stimulated alone and when they were stimulated together. The tension excess, or overlap, was up to 60% when expressed in terms of the tension developed by either unit alone. Motor units developing similar amounts of tension tended to show more overlap in their innervation than units with very different tensions. 5. An estimate of the amount of multiterminal innervation gave variable results but could account for up to 60% of a motor unit's tension. No correlation could be detected between the values for multiterminal innervation and any other measured parameter. However, it is argued that because of the limitations of the measurements the existence of a relationship between the extent of multiterminal or polyneuronal innervation and the mechanical properties of the motor unit cannot be excluded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-685
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1976

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