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Kissane RWP, Egginton S, Askew GN Regional variation in the mechanical properties and fibre-type composition of the rat extensor digitorum longus muscle Experimental Physiology 103 111-124, 2018DOI:10.1113/EP086483View abstract
© 2017 The Authors. Experimental Physiology © 2017 The Physiological Society New Findings: What is the central question of this study? Mammalian muscle is typically heterogeneous in fibre-type distribution, with distinct regional variation in composition. The effects this might have on mechanicalperformance are largely unknown. What is the main finding and its importance? Contractile properties vary regionally within a heterogeneous muscle. The mixed extensor digitorum longus muscle has phenotypically distinct compartments that differ in their isometric twitch kinetics, the optimal cycle frequency for maximal power generation and fatigue resistance. The mechanisms underpinning the decline in performance during fatigue differ between compartments. Regional variation in mechanical performance suggests that regions of the extensor digitorum longus muscle might be differentially recruitedduring locomotion, depending upon functional demand. Fibre-type composition is heterogeneous, and distribution varies spatially in many muscles, indicating that there might be regional variation in recruitment and mechanical output. The rat extensor digitorum longus muscle is composed of predominantly fast-twitch fibres and exhibits a gradient in phenotype, resulting in oxidative medial (areal composition 24.3% type I/IIa) and glycolytic lateral (92.4% type IIx/IIb) compartments. Here, we investigated the variation in mechanical performance between the medial and lateral compartments during isometric, isotonic and cyclical contractions. Isometric tetanic stress and force–velocity relationships were similar in both compartments, but isometric twitch kinetics were slower in the medial compared with the lateral compartment. The medial compartment also had a lower optimal cycle frequencyfor maximal net power generation (11 versus 15 Hz; P < 0.05) attributable to slower isometric kinetics, resulting in a lower level of activation and reduced net work generation at higher cycle frequencies, compared with the lateral compartment. The more oxidative, medial compartment had higher fatigue resistance, maintaining net power 26% longer thanthe lateral compartment. The predominant mechanisms underpinning the decrease in net power varied between the compartments, resulting from an increase in the work to extend the muscle and from a reduction in work during shortening in the medial and lateral compartments, respectively. Regional variation in mechanical performance and resistance to fatigue within a mixed muscle suggests that a differential recruitment pattern is likely during locomotion, with the medial compartment being used during slow-speed locomotion and the lateral compartment during burst activities.