Recovery from chronic strain injury (50 strains daily, five times weekly for 6 weeks to hyperactive soleus muscles) was followed for 3 months in female rats after cessation of chronic hyperactivity induced by pretreatment of the plantar flexor muscles with tetanus toxin. After 6 weeks of repeated strains, muscle mass decreased by 62%, myofiber areas were reduced by 87%, and noncontractile tissue expanded dramatically by 222%. Collagen content increased by almost ninefold (control 40 +/- 3 microg/mg, chronic injury 392 +/- 53 microg/mg), whereas the molar ratio of collagen (pyridinoline) crosslinks to collagen remained the same (control 0.20 +/- 0.01, chronic injury 0.16 +/- 0.01). After 3 months of ambulation, muscle mass returned to normal but myofiber areas remained smaller by 21%, noncontractile tissue was still markedly elevated by 18% with increased collagen content (107 +/- 15 microg/mg), and the molar ratio of crosslinks to collagen increased by 75% during recovery. Thus, rat soleus muscles recovered very slowly and incompletely from chronic strain injuries that produced muscle fibrosis, highlighting the necessity of devising preventative strategies for repeated strain injuries.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.