Thin Filament Diversity and Physiological Properties of Fast and Slow Fiber Types in Astronaut Leg Muscles

Document Type




Format of Original

9 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN



Slow type I fibers in soleus and fast white (IIa/IIx, IIx), fast red (IIa), and slow red (I) fibers in gastrocnemius were examined electron microscopically and physiologically from pre- and postflight biopsies of four astronauts from the 17-day, Life and Microgravity Sciences Spacelab Shuttle Transport System-78 mission. At 2.5-µm sarcomere length, thick filament density is ~1,012 filaments/µm2 in all fiber types and unchanged by spaceflight. In preflight aldehyde-fixed biopsies, gastrocnemius fibers possess higher percentages (~23%) of short thin filaments than soleus (9%). In type I fibers, spaceflight increases short, thin filament content from 9 to 24% in soleus and from 26 to 31% in gastrocnemius. Thick and thin filament spacing is wider at short sarcomere lengths. The Z-band lattice is also expanded, except for soleus type I fibers with presumably stiffer Z bands. Thin filament packing density correlates directly with specific tension for gastrocnemius fibers but not soleus. Thin filament density is inversely related to shortening velocity in all fibers. Thin filament structural variation contributes to the functional diversity of normal and spaceflight- unloaded muscles.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 92, No. 2 (February 2002): 817-825. DOI.