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Biophys J. 1977 Nov;20(2):221-32.

Light diffraction studies of sarcomere dynamics in single skeletal muscle fibers.


A position-sensitive optical diffractometer has been used to examine the diffraction spectra produced by single skeletal muscle fibers during twitch and tetanic contraction. First-order diffraction lines were computer-analyzed for mean sarcomere length, line intensity, and percent dispersion in sarcomere length. Line intensity was observed to decrease rapidly by about 60 percent during a twitch, with an exponential recovery to resting intensity persisting well beyond cessation of sarcomere shortening; recovery was particularly prolonged at zero myofilament overlap. A number of single fibers at initial lengths from 2.5 to 3.5 MICRON EXHIBITED a splitting of the first-order line into two or more components during relaxation, with components merging back into a single peak by 200 ms after stimulation. This splitting reflects the asynchronous nature of myofibrillar relaxation within a single fiber. During tetanus, the dispersion decreased by more than 10 percent from onset to plateau, implying a gradual stabilization of sarcomeres.

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