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Pflugers Arch. 1996 Sep;432(5):913-20.

Whole-muscle and single-fibre contractile properties and myosin heavy chain isoforms in humans.

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  • 1Institute of Human Physiology, University of Pavia, Via Forlanini 6 I-27100, Pavia, Italy.


The contractile characteristics of three human muscle groups (triceps surae, quadriceps femoris and triceps brachii) of seven young male subjects were examined. The contractile properties were determined from electrically evoked isometric responses and compared with fibre type composition determined from needle biopsy samples. Fibre types were identified using myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms as molecular markers with gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and histochemical ATPase staining. Four contractile parameters (twitch time to peak torque, the maximal rate of torque development, frequency response and fatiguability) were found to be related to fibre type composition. From the biopsy samples, single muscle fibres were isolated and chemically skinned. Isometric tension (Po) unloaded shortening velocity (Vo) and rate of tension rise (dP/dt) were determined. Each fibre was classified on the basis of its MHC isoform composition determined by SDS-PAGE. Fibres belonging to the same type showed identical contractile parameters regardless of the muscle of origin, except minor differences in Po of the fast fibres and dP/dt of slow fibres. The results are in favour of the conclusion that fibre type composition, determined using MHC isoforms as markers, is the major determinant of the diversity of contractile properties among human muscle groups.

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