Indexed on: 01 Nov '01Published on: 01 Nov '01Published in: Journal of neurotrauma
Experimental spinal cord injury (SCI) via contusion of moderate severity results in residual locomotor deficits, including a lack of coordination and trunk stability. Given that muscle contractile properties and fiber composition adapt to reduced neural input and/or weight bearing, contusion-induced locomotor deficits may reflect changes in hindlimb skeletal muscle. Therefore, we examined muscle adaptations during early (1 week), intermediate (3 week), and late (10 week) stages of motor recovery after moderate SCI. Forty-two Sprague Dawley rats underwent SCI via 1.1mm cord displacement with the OSU impact device or served as age and weight-matched or laminectomy controls. Subsets of rats had soleus (SOL) in vitro physiological testing or SOL and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) myosin heavy chain (MHC) fiber type analysis. At 1 week post-SCI during paralysis/paresis, a significant decrease in wet weight occurred in the plantaris, medial/lateral gastrocnemius (MG/LG), tibialis anterior, and SOL. Changes in contractile properties of the SOL did not accompany muscle wet weight changes. By 3 weeks, the loss of weight-bearing activity early after SCI induced significant decreases in SOL peak twitch and peak tetanic tension as well as significantly greater IIx MHC expression in the EDL. By 10 weeks post-SCI, after several weeks of weight supported stepping, muscle wet weight, contractile properties and MHC composition returned to baseline levels except for MG/LG atrophy. Thus, muscle plasticity appears to be extremely sensitive to locomotor deficits and their resolution after moderate spinal cord contusion.