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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Jul;55(7):B347-54.

Effects of high-intensity resistance training on untrained older men. II. Muscle fiber characteristics and nucleo-cytoplasmic relationships.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University, Athens 45701, USA.


During growth and repair of skeletal muscle fibers, satellite cells become activated, undergo mitosis, and a daughter nucleus becomes incorporated into the muscle fiber to increase myonuclear numbers. An increase in myonuclei appears to be required for this postnatal growth. This study examined whether muscle fibers of elderly men can hypertrophy with strength training and, if so, whether they have the capacity to incorporate nuclei into the fibers. The sarcoplasmic area associated with each myonucleus was calculated in nine elderly men before and after 16 weeks of strength training, and compared to nine elderly control men. Muscle fiber type changes and myosin heavy chain composition were also compared. All major fiber types (I, IIA, IIB) became significantly larger after training, and a transition of type IIB fibers to IIA occurred with training. The area occupied by each fiber type correlated with myosin heavy chain percentage, and both of these changed similarly with strength training. The cytoplasm-to-myonucleus ratio increased, but not significantly (p = .07), with muscle fiber hypertrophy. Number of myonuclei per fiber and myonuclei per unit length of muscle fiber increased, but not significantly. Cross-sectional areas of the muscle fibers in untrained elderly men were much smaller than in untrained young men (when compared with our earlier studies). Training increased the sizes of the elderly muscle fibers to that of the untrained young men. This hypertrophy of muscle fibers by 30% with training resulted in no change in the cytoplasm-to-myonucleus ratio. This suggests that the myonuclear population continues to adapt to growth stimuli in the elderly muscles.

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