Failure to expand the motor unit size to compensate for declining motor unit numbers distinguishes sarcopenic from non-sarcopenic older men
OPEN The Journal of physiology | 13 Mar 2018
M Piasecki, A Ireland, J Piasecki, DW Stashuk, A Swiecicka, MK Rutter, DA Jones and JS McPhee
Sarcopenia results from the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and reduced function in older age. It is likely to be associated with the well-documented reduction of motor unit numbers innervating limb muscles and the increase in size of surviving motor units via reinnervation of denervated fibres. However no evidence currently exists to confirm the extent of motor unit remodelling in sarcopenic individuals. The aim of the present study was to compare motor unit size and number between young (n = 48), non-sarcopenic old (n = 13), pre-sarcopenic (n = 53) and sarcopenic (n = 29) men. Motor unit potentials (MUPs) were isolated from intramuscular and surface electromyographic recordings. The motor unit numbers were reduced in all groups of old compared with young (all P < 0.001). Motor unit potentials were enlarged in non-sarcopenic and pre-sarcopenic men compared with young (P = 0.039 and 0.001 respectively), but not in the VL of sarcopenic old (P = 0.485). The results suggest that extensive motor unit remodelling occurs relatively early during ageing, exceeds the loss of muscle mass and precedes sarcopenia. Reinnervation of denervated muscle fibres likely expands the motor unit size in non-sarcopenic and pre-sarcopenic old, but not in the sarcopenic old. These findings suggest that a failure to expand the motor unit size distinguishes sarcopenic from pre-sarcopenic muscles. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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