Optogenetic and transcriptomic interrogation of enhanced muscle function in the paralyzed mouse whisker pad

Thomas J. Vajtay, Akhil Bandi, Aman Upadhyay, Mavis R. Swerdel, Ronald P. Hart, Christian R. Lee, David J. Margolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The functional state of denervated muscle is a critical factor in the ability to restore movement after injury- or disease-related paralysis. Here we used peripheral optogenetic stimulation and transcriptome profiling in the mouse whisker system to investigate the time course of changes in neuromuscular function following complete unilateral facial nerve transection. While most skeletal muscles rapidly lose functionality after lower motor neuron denervation, optogenetic muscle stimulation of the paralyzed whisker pad revealed sustained increases in the sensitivity, velocity, and amplitude of whisker movements, and reduced fatigability, starting 48 h after denervation. RNA-seq analysis showed distinct regulation of multiple gene families in denervated whisker pad muscles compared with the atrophy-prone soleus, including prominent changes in ion channels and contractile fibers. Together, our results define the unique functional and transcriptomic landscape of denervated facial muscles and have general implications for restoring movement after neuromuscular injury or disease. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Optogenetic activation of muscle can be used to noninvasively induce movements and probe muscle function. We used this technique in mice to investigate changes in whisker movements following facial nerve transection. We found unexpectedly enhanced functional properties of whisker pad muscle following denervation, accompanied by unique transcriptomic changes. Our findings highlight the utility of the mouse whisker pad for investigating the restoration of movement after paralysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1491-1500
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


  • Chr2
  • Denervation
  • Motor control
  • Movement disorders
  • Mystacial vibrissae
  • Optogenetics
  • Paralysis
  • Plasticity
  • Rna-seq
  • Sensorimotor integration


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