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Mol Cell Biochem. 1998 Feb;179(1-2):147-58.

Simultaneous stiffness and force measurements reveal subtle injury to rabbit soleus muscles.

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Department of Orthopaedics, University of California and Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Diego 92093-9151, USA.


The time course of force generation and the time course of muscle stiffness were measured in rabbit soleus muscles during eccentric contraction to understand the underlying basis for the force loss in these muscles. Muscles were activated for 600 msec every 10 sec for 30 min. Soleus muscles contracting isometrically maintained constant tension throughout the treatment period, while muscles subjected to eccentric contraction rapidly dropped tension generation by 75% within the first few minutes and then an additional 10% by the end of 30 min. This indicated a dramatic loss in force-generating ability throughout the 30 min treatment period. To estimate the relative number of cross-bridges attached during the isometric force generation phase immediately preceding each eccentric contraction, stiffness was measured during a small stretch of a magnitude equal to 1.5% of the fiber length. Initially, muscle stiffness exceeded 1300 g/mm and, as eccentric treatment progressed, stiffness decreased to about 900 g/mm. Thus, while muscle stiffness decreased by only 30% over the 30 min treatment period, isometric force decreased by 85%. In isometrically activated muscles, stiffness remained constant throughout the treatment period. These data indicate that, while soleus muscles decreased their force generating capability significantly, there were a number of cross-bridges still attached that were not generating force. In summary, the loss of force generating capacity in the rabbit soleus muscle appears to be related to a fundamental change in myosin cross-bridge properties without the more dramatic morphological changes observed in other eccentric contraction models. These results are compared and contrasted with the observations made on muscles composed primarily of fast fibers.

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