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Quantitative assessment of degenerative changes in soleus muscle after hindlimb suspension and recovery.

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Unité de Bioénergétique et Environment, Centre de Recherches du Service de Santé des Armées, La Tronche, France.


The aim of this study was to quantify the degenerative and regenerative changes in rat soleus muscle resulting from 3-week hindlimb suspension at 45 degrees tilt (HS group, n = 8) and 4-week normal cage recovery (HS-R group, n = 7). Degenerative changes were quantified by microscope examination of muscle cross sections, and the myosin heavy chain (MHC) composition of soleus muscles was studied by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. At the end of 3-week hindlimb suspension, histological signs of muscle degenerative changes were detected in soleus muscles. There was a significant variability in the percentage of fibres referred to as degenerating (%dg) in individual animals in the HS group [%dg = 8.41 (SEM 0.5)%, range 4.66%-14.08%]. Moreover, %dg varied significantly along the length of the soleus muscle. The percentage of fibres with internal nuclei was less than %dg in HS-soleus muscles [4.12 (SEM 0.3)%, range 1.24%-8.86%]. In 4-week recovery rats, the greater part of the fibres that were not referred to as normal, retained central nuclei [15.8 (SEM 2.2)%, range 6.2%-21.1%]. A significant increase in the slow isoform of MHG was recorded in the HS-R rats, compared to muscles from age-matched rats (P < 0.01). These results would suggest that a cycle of myofibre degeneration-regeneration occurred during HS and passive recovery, and that the increased accumulation of slow MHC observed in soleus muscles after recovery from HS could be related to the prevalence of newly formed fibres.

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