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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2000;73(2-4):195-262.

Human skeletal muscle fibres: molecular and functional diversity.

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Institute of Human Physiology, University of Pavia, Via Forlanni 6, 27100, Pavia, Italy.


Contractile and energetic properties of human skeletal muscle have been studied for many years in vivo in the body. It has been, however, difficult to identify the specific role of muscle fibres in modulating muscle performance. Recently it has become possible to dissect short segments of single human muscle fibres from biopsy samples and make them work in nearly physiologic conditions in vitro. At the same time, the development of molecular biology has provided a wealth of information on muscle proteins and their genes and new techniques have allowed analysis of the protein isoform composition of the same fibre segments used for functional studies. In this way the histological identification of three main human muscle fibre types (I, IIA and IIX, previously called IIB) has been followed by a precise description of molecular composition and functional and biochemical properties. It has become apparent that the expression of different protein isoforms and therefore the existence of distinct muscle fibre phenotypes is one of the main determinants of the muscle performance in vivo. The present review will first describe the mechanisms through which molecular diversity is generated and how fibre types can be identified on the basis of structural and functional characteristics. Then the molecular and functional diversity will be examined with regard to (1) the myofibrillar apparatus; (2) the sarcolemma and the sarcoplasmic reticulum; and (3) the metabolic systems devoted to producing ATP. The last section of the review will discuss the advantage that fibre diversity can offer in optimizing muscle contractile performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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