Functional and molecular outcomes of the human masticatory muscles

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The masticatory muscles achieve a broad range of different activities such as chewing, sucking, swallowing, and speech. In order to accomplish these duties, masticatory muscles have a unique and heterogeneous structure and fiber composition, enabling them to produce their strength and contraction speed largely dependent on their motor units and myosin proteins that can change in response to genetic and environmental factors. Human masticatory muscles express unique myosin isoforms, including a combination of thick fibers, expressing myosin light chains (MyLC) and myosin class I and II heavy chains (MyHC) -IIA, -IIX, α-cardiac, embryonic and neonatal and thin fibers, respectively. In this review, we discuss the current knowledge regarding the importance of fiber-type diversity in masticatory muscles versus supra- and infrahyoid muscles, and versus limb and trunk muscles. We also highlight new information regarding the adaptive response and specific genetic variations of muscle fibers on the functional significance of the masticatory muscles, which influences craniofacial characteristics, malocclusions, or asymmetry. These findings may offer future possibilities for the prevention of craniofacial growth disturbances.

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