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Acta Anat (Basel). 1994;151(2):97-106.

Fibre type distribution, capillarization and enzymatic profile of locomotor and nonlocomotor muscles of horses and steers.

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Department of Medicine and Surgery, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.


Samples were taken at slaughter from heart and both locomotor and nonlocomotor muscles from animals of similar body weight but adapted to different levels of activity: three horses and three steers. All samples were analyzed biochemically to measure the activity of key metabolic enzymes. The skeletal muscles were analyzed histochemically for fibre type composition, fibre area and capillary supply. The general pattern of differences in fibre type composition and metabolic profile between muscle groups was similar in both horses and steers. The hearts of both species had high citrate synthase (CS), 3-OH-acylCoA-dehydrogenase (HAD) and hexokinase (HK) and low lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activities. In both species, deep portions of muscles and muscles localized deeper in the body had a more oxidative metabolic profile than superficial portions and muscles. Taking all muscles into account, it was found that CS and HAD were higher and LDH lower in horse than in steer muscles. Horse muscles contained more type IIA fibres and had a higher capillary supply than steer muscles. There was no difference between the two species regarding mean fibre area. The adaptation of the horse to a higher level of activity in comparison with steers was reflected in a higher oxidative capacity, better vascularization and a larger proportion of type IIA fibres. It was also obvious from these results that the ATPase fibre-typing system does not reflect the metabolic profile of a muscle.

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