Open Access Research article

Magnesium administration provokes motor unit survival, after sciatic nerve injury in neonatal rats

N Gougoulias1, A Hatzisotiriou2, D Kapoukranidou3 and M Albani3*

Author Affiliations

1 Flat 144, Trevose House, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treslike, Truto- Cornwall, TR1 3LL, United Kingdom

2 First Neurosurgery Department, AHEPA University Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece

3 Dept of Physiology, Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2004, 5:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-33

Published: 24 September 2004



We examined the time course of the functional alterations in two types of muscles following sciatic nerve crush in neonatal rats and the neuroprotective effect of Mg2+.


The nerve crush was performed on the 2nd postnatal day. MgSO4*7H2O was administered daily for two weeks. Animals were examined for the contractile properties and for the number of motor units of extensor digitorum longus and soleus muscles at three postnatal stages and adulthood. Four experimental groups were included in this study: i) controls, ii) axotomized rats, iii) magnesium treated controls and iv) axotomized and Mg2+-treated rats.


Axotomy resulted in 20% MU survival in EDL and 50% in soleus. In contrast, magnesium treatment resulted in a significant motor unit survival (40% survival in EDL and 80% in soleus). The neuroprotective effects of Mg2+ were evident immediately after the Mg2+-treatment. Immature EDL and soleus muscles were slow and fatigueable. Soleus gradually became fatigue resistant, whereas, after axotomy, soleus remained fatigueable up to adulthood. EDL gradually became fastcontracting. Tetanic contraction in axotomized EDL was just 3,3% of the control side, compared to 15,2% in Mg2+-treated adult rats. The same parameter for axotomized soleus was 12% compared to 97% in Mg2+-treated adult rats.


These results demonstrate that motoneuron death occurs mostly within two weeks of axotomy. Magnesium administration rescues motoneurons and increases the number of motor units surviving into adulthood. Fast and slow muscles respond differently to axotomy and to subsequent Mg2+ treatment in vivo.