Motor unit number estimate as a predictor of motor dysfunction in an animal model of type 1 diabetes

Nizar Souayah, Joseph G. Potian, Carmen C. Garcia, Natalia Krivitskaya, Christine Boone, Vanessa H. Routh, Joseph J. McArdle

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35 Scopus citations


Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes that leads to severe morbidity. In this study, we investigated the sensitivity of motor unit number estimate (MUNE) to detect early motor axon dysfunction in streptozotocin (STZ)-treated mice. We compared the findings with in vitro changes in the morphology and electrophysiology of the neuromuscular junction. Adult Thy1-YFP and Swiss Webster mice were made diabetic following three interdaily intraperitoneal STZ injections. Splay testing and rotarod performance assessed motor activity for 6 wk. Electromyography was carried out in the same time course, and compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude, latency, and MUNE were estimated. Two-electrode voltage clamp was used to calculate quantal content (QC) of evoked transmitter release. We found that an early reduction in MUNE was evident before a detectable decline of motor activity. CMAP amplitude was not altered. MUNE decrease accompanied a drop of end-plate current amplitude and QC. We also observed small axonal loss, sprouting of nerve endings, and fragmentation of acetylcholine receptor clusters at the motor end plate. Our results suggest an early remodeling of motor units through the course of diabetic neuropathy, which can be readily detected by the MUNE technique. The early detection of MUNE anomalies is significant because it suggests that molecular changes associated with pathology and leading to neurodegeneration might already be occurring at this stage. Therefore, trials of interventions to prevent motor axon dysfunction in diabetic neuropathy should be administered at early stages of the disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E602-E608
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Neuropathy
  • Remodeling


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