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Exp Gerontol. 2010 Sep;45(9):662-70. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2010.04.001. Epub 2010 Apr 14.

Slow twitch soleus muscle is not protected from sarcopenia in senescent rats.

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Muscle and Aging Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.


Although most literature suggests a relative protection of slow twitch muscle with aging, there is limited data in senescence when muscle atrophy and functional decline markedly accelerate. To address this issue we examined age-related changes in muscle mass, contractile function, mitochondrial enzyme activities, and myosin heavy chain (MHC) expression in the slow twitch soleus (Sol) and fast twitch gastrocnemius (Gas) muscle of young adult (YA) and senescent (SEN) rats. Muscle mass declined between YA and SEN in the Sol by 35% compared to 55% in the Gas muscle. After normalizing for muscle mass, tetanic force per g of muscle declined by 58% in Sol and by 36% in Gas muscle. Time-to-peak tension was increased only in the Gas (30%), whereas time-to-half relaxation was increased by 70% in Sol and 51% in Gas. Citrate synthase and complex IV activity declined in homogenates of Sol (30-36%) and red oxidative region of Gas (46-51%), but not white glycolytic region of Gas. Strikingly, the shift away from the dominant adult MHC isoform with aging was much greater in Sol (fibers positive for MHC fast: 11+/-2% in YA versus 36+/-3% in SEN) than in Gas (fibers positive for MHC slow: 12+/-1% in YA versus 26+/-3% in SEN) muscle. Collectively, these results show that the slow twitch Sol muscle undergoes large phenotypic alterations in very old age and for several measures (tetanic tension per g, time-to-half relaxation and shift in adult MHC expression) that is of greater magnitude than fast twitch muscle, underscoring the importance of including age-related changes in slow twitch muscle in seeking potential treatments for sarcopenia.

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