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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Feb;114(3):380-6. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01122.2012. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Prolonged C2 spinal hemisection-induced inactivity reduces diaphragm muscle specific force with modest, selective atrophy of type IIx and/or IIb fibers.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Collegeof Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA.


The diaphragm muscle (DIAm) is critically responsible for sustaining ventilation. Previously we showed in a commonly used model of spinal cord injury, unilateral spinal cord hemisection at C(2) (SH), that there are minimal changes to muscle fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) and fiber type distribution following 14 days of SH-induced ipsilateral DIAm inactivity. In the present study, effects of long-term SH-induced inactivity on DIAm fiber size and force were examined. We hypothesized that prolonged inactivity would not result in substantial DIAm atrophy or force loss. Adult rats were randomized to control or SH groups (n = 34 total). Chronic bilateral DIAm electromyographic (EMG) activity was monitored during resting breathing. Minimal levels of spontaneous recovery of ipsilateral DIAm EMG activity were evident in 42% of SH rats (<25% of preinjury root mean square amplitude). Following 42 days of SH, DIAm specific force was reduced 39%. There was no difference in CSA for type I or IIa DIAm fibers in SH rats compared with age, weight-matched controls (classification based on myosin heavy chain isoform expression). Type IIx and/or IIb DIAm fibers displayed a modest 20% reduction in CSA (P < 0.05). Overall, there were no differences in the distribution of fiber types or the contribution of each fiber type to the total DIAm CSA. These data indicate that reduced specific force following prolonged inactivity of the DIAm is associated with modest, fiber type selective adaptations in muscle fiber size and fiber type distribution.

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