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J Biomech. 2012 Sep 21;45(14):2387-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Overextended sarcomeres regain filament overlap following stretch.

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Human Performance Laboratory, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2N 1N4.


Sarcomere overextension has been widely implicated in stretch-induced muscle injury. Yet, sarcomere overextensions are typically inferred based on indirect evidence obtained in muscle and fibre preparations, where individual sarcomeres cannot be observed during dynamic contractions. Therefore, it remains unclear whether sarcomere overextensions are permanent following injury-inducing stretch-shortening cycles, and thus, if they can explain stretch-induced force loss. We tested the hypothesis that overextended sarcomeres can regain filament overlap in isolated myofibrils from rabbit psoas muscles. Maximally activated myofibrils (n=13) were stretched from an average sarcomere length of 2.6±0.04μm by 0.9μm sarcomere(-1) at a speed of 0.1μm sarcomere(-1)s(-1) and immediately returned to the starting lengths at the same speed (sarcomere strain=34.1±2.3%). Myofibrils were then allowed to contract isometrically at the starting lengths (2.6μm) for ∼30s before relaxing. Force and individual sarcomere lengths were measured continuously. Out of the 182 sarcomeres, 35 sarcomeres were overextended at the peak of stretch, out of which 26 regained filament overlap in the shortening phase while 9 (∼5%) remained overextended. About 35% of the sarcomeres with initial lengths on the descending limb of the force-length relationship and ∼2% of the sarcomeres with shorter initial lengths were overextended. These findings provide first ever direct evidence that overextended sarcomeres can regain filament overlap in the shortening phase following stretch, and that the likelihood of overextension is higher for sarcomeres residing initially on the descending limb.

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