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Adv Space Res. 2002;30(4):777-81.

Gravitational unloading effects on muscle fiber size, phenotype and myonuclear number.

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  • 1Dept. Physiol. Biomech., Kyoto Univ., Kyoto, Japan.
  • 2U CA, Los Angeles


The effects of gravitational unloading with or without intact neural activity and/or tension development on myosin heavy chain (MHC) composition, cross-sectional area (CSA), number of myonuclei, and myonuclear domain (cytoplasmic volume per myonucleus ratio) in single fibers of both slow and fast muscles of rat hindlimbs are reviewed briefly. The atrophic response to unloading is generally graded as follows: slow extensors > fast extensors > fast flexors. Reduction of CSA is usually greater in the most predominant fiber type of that muscle. The percentage of fibers expressing fast MHC isoforms increases in unloaded slow but not fast muscles. Myonuclear number per mm of fiber length and myonuclear domain is decreased in the fibers of the unloaded predominantly slow soleus muscle, but not in the predominantly fast plantaris. Decreases in myonuclear number and domain, however, are observed in plantaris fibers when tenotomy, denervation, or both are combined with hindlimb unloading. All of these results are consistent with the view that a major factor for fiber atrophy is an inhibition or reduction of loading of the hindlimbs. These data also indicate that predominantly slow muscles are more responsive to unloading than predominantly fast muscles.

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