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J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 2009 Dec;30(7-8):261-5. doi: 10.1007/s10974-010-9202-0. Epub 2010 Feb 11.

Effect of short-term gravitational unloading on rat and mongolian gerbil muscles.

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  • 1SSC RF Institute for Biomedical Problems RAS, 76A, Khoroshevskoyoe shosse, 123007 Moscow, Russian Federation.


Gravitational unloading leads to destructive changes in the structure and function of muscle fibers. However, the role of the EMG activity level is still unclear. We measured changes caused by one- and three-day hypogravity in the following muscles: Soleus (Sol), Tibialis anterior (TA) and Gastrocnemius c.m. (MG). We used Wistar rats and Mongolian gerbils. The following parameters were assessed: the specific force of contraction of isolated fibers by tensometry, the transverse stiffness of the contractile apparatus by atomic force microscopy, and the calcium content by Fluo-4. We detected the accumulation of calcium ions in all muscles even after one-day unloading. In Sol this effect was more significant than in other muscles. After one-day of hypogravity we detected an increase in the specific force in all muscle types and species. Meanwhile, the transverse stiffness of the contractile apparatus, M-band and Z-disc increased only in fast muscles but not in Sol. After three-days of unloading, the specific force in Sol decreased, and the transverse stiffness of the contractile apparatus behaved in the same way as the force. The specific tension of fast muscle fibers decreased significantly in comparison with one-day unloading. In addition, the transverse stiffness of some areas of MG had a tendency to decrease in comparison to "one-day" unloading, although there was no such a tendency in the fibers of TA. In Mongolian gerbils the tendencies were the same as in the rats, but showed less dramatic changes. The reduction in the magnitude of changes in the Sol-MG-TA series correlates with EMG activity.

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