The Journal of general physiology

Functional characterization of orbicularis oculi and extraocular muscles.

PMID 27069119


The orbicularis oculi are the sphincter muscles of the eyelids and are involved in modulating facial expression. They differ from both limb and extraocular muscles (EOMs) in their histology and biochemistry. Weakness of the orbicularis oculi muscles is a feature of neuromuscular disorders affecting the neuromuscular junction, and weakness of facial muscles and ptosis have also been described in patients with mutations in the ryanodine receptor gene. Here, we investigate human orbicularis oculi muscles and find that they are functionally more similar to quadriceps than to EOMs in terms of excitation-contraction coupling components. In particular, they do not express the cardiac isoform of the dihydropyridine receptor, which we find to be highly expressed in EOMs where it is likely responsible for the large depolarization-induced calcium influx. We further show that human orbicularis oculi and EOMs express high levels of utrophin and low levels of dystrophin, whereas quadriceps express dystrophin and low levels of utrophin. The results of this study highlight the notion that myotubes obtained by explanting satellite cells from different muscles are not functionally identical and retain the physiological characteristics of their muscle of origin. Furthermore, our results indicate that sparing of facial and EOMs in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the result of the higher levels of utrophin expression.