Models of Disuse: A Comparison of Hindlimb Suspension and Immobilization

Document Type




Format of Original

8 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1152/jappl.1986.60.6.1946


The effects of 1 and 2 wk of hindlimb suspension (HS) on rat skeletal muscle function were determined and the results compared with those obtained previously with hindlimb immobilization (HI). Both models of disuse (HS and HI) primarily affected slow-twitch muscle. Each decreased the isometric twitch duration in the slow-twitch soleus; however, the HS-mediated effect was entirely a result of a shortened contraction time (CT), whereas HI reduced one-half relaxation time (½RT) as well as CT. Soleus muscle mass and peak tetanic tension (P0) declined with disuse. The HS effect on muscle mass and P0 was variable, however, for all experiments HS produced atrophy equal to or greater than HI. A major difference existed in the effects of HS and HI on the maximal speed of soleus muscle shortening (Vmax). One and 2 wk of HS produced increases in Vmax to 4.45 ± 0.34 and 6.83 ± 0.74 fiber lengths/s, respectively, compared with control velocities of 3.05 ± 0.08. By contrast over a similar time period, HI had no significant effect on soleus Vmax. The increase in Vmax at 14 days of HS was associated with, and perhaps caused by, the increased expression of a second faster migrating isozyme of myosin. The new native isozyme comigrated with fast myosin, but its light chain subunits contained only LC1s and LC2s. The mechanism responsible for the increase is unknown. One plausible explanation is that the apparent HS-mediated modification in muscle fiber type is dependent on the elimination of loadbearing or isometric contractions, a condition that does not exist during HI.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 60, No. 6 (June 1986): 1946-1953. DOI.