Facial nerve axotomy in mice: A model to study motoneuron response to injury

Deborah N. Olmstead, Nichole A. Mesnard-Hoaglin, Richard J. Batka, Melissa M. Haulcomb, Whitney M. Miller, Kathryn J. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


The goal of this surgical protocol is to expose the facial nerve, which innervates the facial musculature, at its exit from the stylomastoid foramen and either cut or crush it to induce peripheral nerve injury. Advantages of this surgery are its simplicity, high reproducibility, and the lack of effect on vital functions or mobility from the subsequent facial paralysis, thus resulting in a relatively mild surgical outcome compared to other nerve injury models. A major advantage of using a cranial nerve injury model is that the motoneurons reside in a relatively homogenous population in the facial motor nucleus in the pons, simplifying the study of the motoneuron cell bodies. Because of the symmetrical nature of facial nerve innervation and the lack of crosstalk between the facial motor nuclei, the operation can be performed unilaterally with the unaxotomized side serving as a paired internal control. A variety of analyses can be performed postoperatively to assess the physiologic response, details of which are beyond the scope of this article. For example, recovery of muscle function can serve as a behavioral marker for reinnervation, or the motoneurons can be quantified to measure cell survival. Additionally, the motoneurons can be accurately captured using laser microdissection for molecular analysis. Because the facial nerve axotomy is minimally invasive and well tolerated, it can be utilized on a wide variety of genetically modified mice. Also, this surgery model can be used to analyze the effectiveness of peripheral nerve injury treatments. Facial nerve injury provides a means for investigating not only motoneurons, but also the responses of the central and peripheral glial microenvironment, immune system, and target musculature. The facial nerve injury model is a widely accepted peripheral nerve injury model that serves as a powerful tool for studying nerve injury and regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere52382
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number96
StatePublished - Feb 23 2015


  • Axotomy
  • Crush
  • Facial nerve
  • Issue 96
  • Motoneuron
  • Mouse
  • Nerve injury
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Neuron
  • Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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  • Cite this

    Olmstead, D. N., Mesnard-Hoaglin, N. A., Batka, R. J., Haulcomb, M. M., Miller, W. M., & Jones, K. J. (2015). Facial nerve axotomy in mice: A model to study motoneuron response to injury. Journal of Visualized Experiments, (96), [e52382]. https://doi.org/10.3791/52382