Contractile Function of Single Muscle Fibers after Hindlimb Suspension

Document Type




Format of Original

11 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN



The purpose of this investigation was to determine how muscle atrophy produced by the hindlimb suspension (HS) model alters the contractile function of slow- and fast-twitch single muscle fibers. After 2 wk of HS, small bundles of fibers were isolated from the soleus and the deep and superficial regions of the lateral and medial heads of the gastrocnemius, respectively. The bundles were placed in skinning solution and stored at -20 degrees C until studied. Single fibers were isolated and suspended between a motor arm and force transducer, the functional properties were studied, and subsequently the fiber type was established by myosin heavy chain (MHC) analysis on 1-D sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. After HS, slow-twitch fibers of the soleus showed a significant reduction in fiber diameter (68 +/- 2 vs. 41 +/- 1 micron) and peak tension (1.37 +/- 0.01 vs. 0.99 +/- 0.06 kg/cm2), whereas the maximal shortening speed (Vmax) increased [1.49 +/- 0.11 vs. 1.92 +/- 0.14 fiber lengths (FL)/s]. A histogram showed two populations of fibers: one with Vmax values identical to control slow-twitch fibers and a second with significantly elevated Vmax values. This latter group frequently contained both slow and fast MHC protein isoforms. The pCa-force relation of the soleus slow-twitch fibers was shifted to the right; consequently, the free Ca2+ required for the onset of tension and for 50% of peak tension was significantly higher after HS. Slow-twitch fibers isolated from the gastrocnemius after HS showed a significant reduction in diameter (67 +/- 4 vs. 44 +/- 3 microns) and peak tension (1.2 +/- 0.06 vs. 0.96 +/- 0.07 kg/cm2), but Vmax was unaltered (1.70 +/- 0.13 vs. 1.65 +/- 0.18 FL/s). Fast-twitch fibers from the red gastrocnemius showed a significant reduction in diameter (59 +/- 2 vs. 49 +/- 3 microns) but no change in peak tension or Vmax. Fast-twitch fibers from the white superficial region of the medial head of the gastrocnemius were unaffected by HS. Collectively, these data suggest that the effects of HS on fiber function depend on the fiber type and location. Both slow-twitch type I and fast-twitch type IIa fibers atrophied; however, only slow-twitch fibers showed a decline in peak tension, and the increase in Vmax was restricted to a subpopulation of slow-twitch soleus fibers.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 66, No. 6 (June 1989): 2739-2749. Permalink.