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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Dec;111(6):1768-77. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00942.2011. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Adaptive strength gains in dystrophic muscle exposed to repeated bouts of eccentric contraction.

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  • 1Dept. of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine the functional recovery and adaptation of dystrophic muscle to multiple bouts of contraction-induced injury. Because lengthening (i.e., eccentric) contractions are extremely injurious for dystrophic muscle, it was considered that repeated bouts of such contractions would exacerbate the disease phenotype in mdx mice. Anterior crural muscles (tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus) and posterior crural muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris) from mdx mice performed one or five repeated bouts of 100 electrically stimulated eccentric contractions in vivo, and each bout was separated by 10-18 days. Functional recovery from one bout was achieved 7 days after injury, which was in contrast to a group of wild-type mice, which still showed a 25% decrement in electrically stimulated isometric torque at that time point. Across bouts there was no difference in the immediate loss of strength after repeated bouts of eccentric contractions for mdx mice (-70%, P = 0.68). However, after recovery from each bout, dystrophic muscle had greater torque-generating capacity such that isometric torque was increased ∼38% for both anterior and posterior crural muscles at bout 5 compared with bout 1 (P < 0.001). Moreover, isolated extensor digitorum longus muscles excised from in vivo-tested hindlimbs 14-18 days after bout 5 had greater specific force than contralateral control muscles (12.2 vs. 10.4 N/cm(2), P = 0.005) and a 20% greater maximal relaxation rate (P = 0.049). Additional adaptations due to the multiple bouts of eccentric contractions included rapid recovery and/or sparing of contractile proteins, enhanced parvalbumin expression, and a decrease in fiber size variability. In conclusion, eccentric contractions are injurious to dystrophic skeletal muscle; however, the muscle recovers function rapidly and adapts to repeated bouts of eccentric contractions by improving strength.

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