Sarcomere Lengths Become More Uniform Over Time in Intact Muscle-Tendon Unit During Isometric Contractions
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AbstractThe seemingly uniform striation pattern of skeletal muscles, quantified in terms of sarcomere lengths (SLs), is inherently non-uniform across all hierarchical levels. The SL non-uniformity theory has been used to explain the force creep in isometric contractions, force depression following shortening of activated muscle, and residual force enhancement following lengthening of activated muscle. Our understanding of sarcomere contraction dynamics has been derived primarily from in vitro experiments using regular bright-field light microscopy or laser diffraction techniques to measure striation/diffraction patterns in isolated muscle fibers or myofibrils. However, the collagenous extracellular matrices present around the muscle fibers, as well as the complex architecture in the whole muscles may lead to different contraction dynamics of sarcomeres than seen in the in vitro studies. Here, we used multi-photon excitation microscopy to visualize in situ individual sarcomeres in intact muscle tendon units (MTUs) of mouse tibialis anterior (TA), and quantified the temporal changes of SL distribution as a function of SLs in relaxed and maximally activated muscles for quasi-steady-state, fixed-end isometric conditions. The corresponding muscle forces were simultaneously measured using a force transducer. We found that SL non-uniformity, quantified by the coefficient of variation (CV) of SLs, decreased at a rate of 1.9–3.1%/s in the activated muscles, but remained constant in the relaxed muscles. The force loss during the quasi-steady-state likely did not play a role in the decrease of SL non-uniformity, as similar force losses were found in the activated and relaxed muscles, but the CV of SLs in the relaxed muscles underwent negligible change over time. We conclude that sarcomeres in the mid-belly of maximally contracting whole muscles constantly re-organize their lengths into a more uniform pattern over time. The molecular mechanisms accounting for SL non-uniformity appear to differ in active and passive muscles, and need further elucidation, as do the functional implications of the SL non-uniformity.
CitationMoo, E., & Herzog, W. (2020). Sarcomere Lengths Become More Uniform Over Time in Intact Muscle-Tendon Unit During Isometric Contractions. "Frontiers in Physiology". (2020). 11:448. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.00448
DepartmentHuman Performance Lab
InstitutionUniversity of Calgary
PublisherFrontiers in Physiology
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