Anatomical Science International

, Volume 89, Issue 2, pp 101–111 | Cite as

Site-dependent differences in density of sympathetic nerve fibers in muscle-innervating nerves of the human head and neck

  • Fumio HosakaEmail author
  • Yukio Katori
  • Tetsuaki Kawase
  • Mineko Fujimiya
  • Hiroshi Ohguro
Original Article


The autonomic nerve supply of skeletal muscle has become a focus of interest because it is closely related to the adaptation of energy metabolism with aging. We have performed an immunohistochemistry study on tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) using specimens obtained from ten selected elderly cadavers (mean age 83.3 years) in which we examined muscle-innervating nerves (abbreviated “muscle-nerves” hereafter) of ten striated muscles (soleus, infraspinatus, extra-ocular inferior rectus, lateral rectus, superior obliquus, temporalis, orbicularis oculi, posterior cricoarytenoideus, trapezius and genioglossus) and, as a positive control, the submandibular ganglion. We found that the extra-ocular muscles received no or very few TH-positive nerve fibers. Muscle-nerves to the other head and neck muscles contained a few or several TH-positive fibers per section, but their density (proportional area of TH-positive fibers per nerve cross-section) was one-half to one-third of that in nerves to the soleus or infraspinatus. We did not find nNOS-positive fibers in any of these muscle-nerves. In the head and neck muscles, with the exception of those of the tongue, there appeared to be very few TH-positive nerve fibers along the feeding artery. Consequently, the head and neck muscles seemed to receive much fewer sympathetic nerves than limb muscles. There was no evidence that nNOS-positive nerves contributed to vasodilation of feeding arteries in striated muscles. This site-dependent difference in sympathetic innervation would reflect its commitment to muscle activity. However, we did not find any rules determining the density of nerves according to muscle fiber type and the mode of muscle activity.


Feeding artery Human anatomy Neuronal nitric oxide synthase Striated muscles Tyrosine hydroxylase 


Conflict of interest



  1. Anderson RL, Gibbins IL, Morris JL (1996) Non-noradrenergic sympathetic neurons project to extramuscular feed arteries and proximal intramuscular arteries of skeletal muscles in guinea-pig hind limbs. J Auton Nerv Syst 61:51–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Auplish S, Hall S (1998) An immunohistochemical study of palmar and plantar digital nerves. Br J Hand Surg 23B:6–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balogh B, Autheith A, Behrus R, Maier S, Vesely M, Piza-Katzer H (2002) The sympathetic axons of the nerves of the hand. Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir 34:369–373PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chakravarthy Marx S, Kumar P, Dhalapathy S, Marx CA, D’Souza AS (2010) Distribution of sympathetic fiber areas of radial nerve in the forearm: an immunohistochemical study in cadavers. Surg Radiol Anat 32:865–871Google Scholar
  5. Chevallier AM, Kieny M, Mauger A (1977) Limb-somite relationship: origin of the limb musculature. J Embryol Exp Morphol 41:245–258PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Fadel Iii PJ, Farias M, Gallagher KM, Wang Z, Thomas GD (2012) Oxidative stress and enhanced sympathetic vasoconstriction in contrasting muscles of nitrate-tolerant rats and humans. J Physiol 590:395–407Google Scholar
  7. Grasby DJ, Morris JL, Segal SS (1999) Heterogeneity of vascular innervations in hamster cheek pouch and retractor muscle. J Vasc Res 36:465–476PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hieda K, Cho KH, Arakawa T, Fujimiya M, Murakami G, Matsubara A (2013) Nerves in the intersphincteric space of the human anal canal with special reference to their continuation to the enteric nerve plexus of the rectum. Clin Anat. doi: 10.1002/ca.22227
  9. Ishii H, Niioka T, Watanabe H, Izumi H (2007) Inhibitory effects of excess sympathetic activity on parasympathetic vasodilation in the rat masseter muscle. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 293:R729–R736PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Khanna S, Porter JD (2001) Evidence for rectus extraocular muscle pulleys in rodents. Investig Ophthalmol Vis Sci 42:1986–1992Google Scholar
  11. Kiyokawa H, Katori Y, Cho KH, Murakami G, Kawase T, Cho BH (2012) Reconsideration of the autonomic cranial ganglia: an immunohistochemical study of mid-term human fetuses. Anat Rec 295:141–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Koba S, Xing J, Sinoway LI, Li J (2010) Bradykinin receptor blockade reduces sympathetic nerve response to muscle contraction in rats with ischemic heart failure. Am J Physio Heart Circ Physiol 298:H1438–H1444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ljung BO, Forsgren S, Fridén J (1999) Sympathetic and sensory innervations are heterogeneously distributed in relation to the blood vessels at the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle origin of man. Cells Tissues Org 165:45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mochizuki T, Sugaya H, Uomizu M et al (2008) Humeral insertion of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus. New anatomical findings regarding the footprint of the rotator cuff. J Bone Jt Surg Am 90:962–969CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Nakao T, Cho KH, Yamamoto M, Yamane S, Murakami G, Ide Y, Abe S (2012) Site-dependent difference in the density of sympathetic nerve fibers in muscle-innervating nerves: a histologic study using human cadavers. Eur J Anat 16:33–42Google Scholar
  16. Ng YK, Wong WC, Ling EA (1995) A study of the structure and function of the submandibular ganglion. Ann Acad Med Singap 24:793–801PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Noden DM (1986) Patterning of avian craniofacial muscles. Dev Biol 116:347–356PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Oikawa S, Kawagishi K, Yokouchi K, Fukushima N, Moriizumi T (2004) Immunohistochemical determination of the sympathetic pathway in the orbit via the cranial nerves in humans. J Neurosurg 101:1037–1044PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rubinstein NA, Hoh JF (2000) The distribution of myosin heavy chain isoforms among rat extraocular muscle fiber types. Investig Ophthalmol Vis Sci 41:3391–3398Google Scholar
  20. Tanaka E, Sano R, Kawai N et al (2008) Regional differences in fiber characteristics in the rat temporalis muscle. J Anat 213:743–748PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Thakker MM, Huang J, Possin DE et al (2008) Human orbital sympathetic pathways. Ophthalmol Plast Reconstr Surg 24:360–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Toda N, Ayajiki K, Okamura T (2009) Cerebral blood flow regulation by nitric oxide: recent advances. Phamacological Rev 61:62–97Google Scholar
  23. Williams PL (1995) Gray’s anatomy, 38th edn. Churchill Livingstone, EdinburghGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japanese Association of Anatomists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fumio Hosaka
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yukio Katori
    • 4
  • Tetsuaki Kawase
    • 5
  • Mineko Fujimiya
    • 3
  • Hiroshi Ohguro
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of OphthalmologyIwamizawa Municipal HospitalIwamizawaJapan
  2. 2.Department of OphthalmologySapporo Medical UniversitySapporoJapan
  3. 3.Department of AnatomySapporo Medical UniversitySapporoJapan
  4. 4.Division of OtorhinolaryngologySendai Municipal HospitalSendaiJapan
  5. 5.Laboratory of Rehabilitative Auditory Science, Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering Tohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

Personalised recommendations