Invited review: Mechanisms underlying motor unit plasticity in the respiratory system

Carlos B. Mantilla, Gary C. Sieck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Neuromotor control of skeletal muscles, including respiratory muscles, is ultimately dependent on the function of the motor unit (comprising an individual motoneuron and the muscle fibers it innervates). Considerable diversity exists across diaphragm motor units, yet remarkable homogeneity is present (and maintained) within motor units. In recent years, the mechanisms underlying the development and adaptability of respiratory motor units have received great attention, leading to significant advances in our understanding of diaphragm motor unit plasticity. For example, following imposed inactivity of the diaphragm muscle, there are changes at phrenic motoneurons, neuromuscular junctions, and muscle fibers that tend to restore the ability of the diaphragm to sustain ventilation. The role of activity, neurotrophins, and other growth factors in modulating this adaptability is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1241
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


  • Diaphragm muscle
  • Inactivity
  • Neurotrophins
  • Phrenic nerve
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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