Nerve terminal distribution in the human tongue intrinsic muscles: An immunohistochemical study using midterm fetuses.

Research paper by Shin-Ichi S Abe, Ryusuke R Kikuchi, Tadashi T Nakao, Baik Hwan BH Cho, Gen G Murakami, Yoshinobu Y Ide

Indexed on: 08 Jun '11Published on: 08 Jun '11Published in: Clinical Anatomy


Intrinsic tongue muscles, especially the transverse and vertical (T&V) muscles, regulate the shape of the tongue. However, little information is available on the nerve distribution pattern in human T&V muscles. Using S100 protein immunohistochemistry for paraffin-embedded histology, we investigated semiserial sagittal or frontal sections of eight human fetal tongues (180-240 mm crown-rump length: CRL). The height of the T&V muscle bundle showed a threefold difference between specimens with a small and a large CRL. Thus, the T&V muscles were still growing at the stages examined. In the intrinsic longitudinal muscles and all extrinsic tongue muscles, we observed the typical motor endplate band. In lower-magnification views, the T&V muscles also appeared to carry the band in the lateral part of the tongue, where the genioglossus muscle fibers did not cross these muscles. However, in higher magnification views, the nerve terminal distribution in the T&V muscles showed a unique rule: the nerve terminal for the transverse muscle bundle was located distantly from that of the adjacent vertical muscle bundle. This pattern seemed to be established during the stages examined. To provide such "distantly separated nerve terminals," thin nerve twigs took a highly curved course oblique to the T&V muscle bundles. We hypothesize that the unique nerve course and terminal distribution in the T&V muscles are a result of sorting to provide a good functional match between the nerve fiber and the muscle bundle. After sorting, the T&V muscle cells may initiate proliferation to increase the muscle bundle.