Contractile function of single muscle fibers after hindlimb unweighting in aged rats

L. V. Thompson, J. A. Shoeman

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16 Scopus citations


This investigation determined how muscle atrophy produced by hindlimb unweighting (HU) alters the contractile function of single muscle fibers from older animals (30 mo). After 1 wk of HU, small bundles of fibers were isolated from the soleus muscles and the deep region of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius muscles. Single glycerinated fibers were suspended between a motor lever and force transducer, functional properties were studied, and the myosin heavy chain (MHC) composition was determined electrophoretically. After HU, the diameter of type I MHC fibers of the soleus declined (88 ± 2 vs. 80 ± 4 μm) and reductions were observed in peak active force (47 ± 3 vs. 28 ± 3 mg) and peak specific tension (P(o); 80 ± 5 vs. 56 ± 5 kN/m2). The maximal unloaded shortening velocity increased. The type I MHC fibers from the gastrocnemius showed reductions in diameter (14%), peak active force (41%), and P(o) (24%), whereas the type IIa MHC fibers showed reductions in peak active force and P(o). Thus 1 wk of inactivity has a significant effect on the force-generating capacity of single skeletal muscle fibers from older animals in a fiber type-specific manner (type I MHC > type IIa MHC > type I- IIa MHC). The decline in the functional properties of single skeletal muscle fibers in the older animals appears to be more pronounced than what has been reported in younger animal populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Contractile properties
  • Fiber types
  • Inactivity
  • Myosin

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