Document Type




Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1152/ajpcell.00575.2019


Age-induced declines in skeletal muscle contractile function have been attributed to multiple cellular factors, including lower peak force (Po), decreased Ca2+ sensitivity, and reduced shortening velocity (Vo). However, changes in these cellular properties with aging remain unresolved, especially in older women, and the effect of submaximal Ca2+ on contractile function is unknown. Thus, we compared contractile properties of muscle fibers from 19 young (24 ± 3 yr; 8 women) and 21 older adults (77 ± 7 yr; 7 women) under maximal and submaximal Ca2+ and assessed the abundance of three proteins thought to influence Ca2+ sensitivity. Fast fiber cross-sectional area was ~44% larger in young (6,479 ± 2,487 µm2) compared with older adults (4,503 ± 2,071 µm2, P < 0.001), which corresponded with a greater absolute Po (young = 1.12 ± 0.43 mN; old = 0.79 ± 0.33 mN, P < 0.001). There were no differences in fast fiber size-specific Po, indicating the age-related decline in force was explained by differences in fiber size. Except for fast fiber size and absolute Po, no age or sex differences were observed in Ca2+ sensitivity, rate of force development (ktr), or Vo in either slow or fast fibers. Submaximal Ca2+ depressed ktr and Vo, but the effects were not altered by age in either sex. Contrary to rodent studies, regulatory light chain (RLC) and myosin binding protein-C abundance and RLC phosphorylation were unaltered by age or sex. These data suggest the age-associated reductions in contractile function are primarily due to the atrophy of fast fibers and that caution is warranted when extending results from rodent studies to humans.


Accepted version. American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology, Vol. 318, No. 6 (June 2020): C1238-C1251. DOI. © 2020 American Physiological Society. Used with permission.

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