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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Mar;86(3):881-6.

Age-related changes in contractile properties of single skeletal fibers from the soleus muscle.

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  • 1Program in Physical Therapy, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Peak absolute force, specific tension (peak absolute force per cross-sectional area), cross-sectional area, maximal unloaded shortening velocity (Vo; determined by the slack test), and myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform compositions were determined in 124 single skeletal fibers from the soleus muscle of 12-, 24-, 30-, 36-, and 37-mo-old Fischer 344 Brown Norway F1 Hybrid rats. All fibers expressed the type I MHC isoform. The mean Vo remained unchanged from 12 to 24 mo but did decrease significantly from the 24- to 30-mo time period (from 1.71 +/- 0.13 to 0.85 +/- 0.09 fiber lengths/s). Fiber cross-sectional area remained constant until 36 mo of age, at which time there was a 20% decrease from the values at 12 mo of age (from 5,558 +/- 232 to 4,339 +/- 280 micrometer2). A significant decrease in peak absolute force of single fibers occurred between 12 and 24 mo of age (from 51 +/- 2 x 10(-5) to 35 +/- 2 x 10(-5) N) and then remained constant until 36 mo, when another 43% decrease occurred. Like peak absolute force, the specific tension decreased significantly between 12 and 24 mo by 20%, and another 32% decline was observed at 37 mo. Thus, by 24 mo, there was a dissociation between the loss of fiber cross-sectional area and force. The results suggest time-specific changes of the contractile properties with aging that are independent of each other. Underlying mechanisms responsible for the time-dependent and contractile property-specific changes are unknown. Age-related changes in the molecular dynamics of myosin may be the underlying mechanism for altered force production. The presence of more than one beta/slow MHC isoform may be the mechanism for the altered Vo with age.

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