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J Exp Biol. 2002 Aug;205(Pt 15):2175-81.

Energy-saving mechanisms in muscle: the minimization strategy.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98195-7115, USA. kconley@u.washington.edu


Many mechanisms reduce the cost of muscle activity. Here, we describe a set of specializations that reduce the cost of contraction in the high-frequency twitches that are used by a wide variety of animals for either sound production or flight. Minimizing the cost of these contractions means that cellular ATP production can meet ATP demand and sustain the high contractile rate. Two classes of specialization are found that minimize the contractile cost. The first class reduces the muscle work required per contraction. Light appendages such as rattles, insect limbs and membranous wings that require little work for movement are used in high-frequency contractions. The second set of specializations involves processes that minimize energy use. High-frequency muscles tend to have a lower cross-bridge content, fewer attached cross-bridges and shorter length changes per contraction. The result is low muscle-specific forces (stress), small length changes (strain) and rapid contraction times that suggest that these muscles push the lower limit of contractile function. The consequence of function at this lower extreme of contraction is to minimize the contractile cost of high-frequency muscles. Thus, specializations that permit rapid contractions at a low rate of ATP use per twitch are the basis of a minimization strategy for energy saving in muscles contracting at high frequency.

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