Masticatory hypermuscularity is not related to reduced cranial volume in myostatin-knockout mice

James Cray, Jared Kneib, Lisa Vecchione, Craig Byron, Gregory M. Cooper, Joseph E. Losee, Michael I. Siegel, Mark W Hamrick, James J. Sciote, Mark P. Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


It has been suggested recently that masticatory muscle size reduction in humans resulted in greater encephalization through decreased compressive forces on the cranial vault. Following this logic, if masticatory muscle size were increased, then a reduction in brain growth should also occur. This study was designed to test this hypothesis using a myostatin (GDF-8) knockout mouse model. Myostatin is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle growth, and individuals lacking this gene show significant hypermuscularity. Sixty-two [32 wild-type (WT) and 30 GDF-8 -/- knockout], 1, 28, 56, and 180-day-old CD-1 mice were used. Body and masseter muscle weights were collected following dissection and standardized lateral and dorsoventral cephalographs were obtained. Cephalometric landmarks were identified on the radiographs and cranial volume was calculated. Mean differences were assessed using a two-way ANOVA. KO mice had significantly greater body and masseter weights beginning at 28 days compared with WT controls. No significant differences in cranial volumes were noted between KO and WT. Muscle weight was not significantly correlated with cranial volume in 1, 28, or 180-day-old mice. Muscle weights exhibited a positive correlation with cranial volume at 56 days. Results demonstrate that masticatory hypermuscularity is not associated with reduced cranial volume. In contrast, there is abundant data demonstrating the opposite, brain growth determines cranial vault growth and masticatory apparatus only affects ectocranial morphology. The results presented here do not support the hypothesis that a reduction in masticatory musculature relaxed compressive forces on the cranial vault allowing for greater encephalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1170-1177
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Brain evolution
  • Hypermuscularity
  • Knockout model
  • Myostatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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