Muscles in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy show profound defects in neuromuscular development even in the absence of failure in neuromuscular transmission or loss of motor neurons. Academic Article uri icon


  • A mouse model of the devastating human disease "spinal muscular atrophy" (SMA) was used to investigate the severe muscle weakness and spasticity that precede the death of these animals near the end of the 2nd postnatal week. Counts of motor units to the soleus muscle as well as of axons in the soleus muscle nerve showed no loss of motor neurons. Similarly, neither immunostaining of neuromuscular junctions nor the measurement of the tension generated by nerve stimulation gave evidence of any significant impairment in neuromuscular transmission, even when animals were maintained up to 5days longer via a supplementary diet. However, the muscles were clearly weaker, generating less than half their normal tension. Weakness in 3 muscles examined in the study appears due to a severe but uniform reduction in muscle fiber size. The size reduction results from a failure of muscle fibers to grow during early postnatal development and, in soleus, to a reduction in number of fibers generated. Neuromuscular development is severely delayed in these mutant animals: expression of myosin heavy chain isoforms, the elimination of polyneuronal innervation, the maturation in the shape of the AChR plaque, the arrival of SCs at the junctions and their coverage of the nerve terminal, the development of junctional folds. Thus, if SMA in this particular mouse is a disease of motor neurons, it can act in a manner that does not result in their death or disconnection from their targets but nonetheless alters many aspects of neuromuscular development.

published proceedings

  • Dev Biol

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, Y. I., Mikesh, M., Smith, I., Rimer, M., & Thompson, W.

citation count

  • 95

complete list of authors

  • Lee, Young Il||Mikesh, Michelle||Smith, Ian||Rimer, Mendell||Thompson, Wesley