Controlled mechanical ventilation induced a profound diaphragm muscle dysfunction and atrophy. The effects of diaphragmatic contractions with assisted mechanical ventilation on diaphragmatic isometric, isotonic contractile properties, or the expression of muscle atrophy factor-box (MAF-box), the gene responsible for muscle atrophy, are unknown. We hypothesize that assisted mechanical ventilation will preserve diaphragmatic force and prevent overexpression of MAF-box. Studying sedated rabbits randomized equally into control animals, those with 3 days of assisted ventilation, and those with controlled ventilation, we assessed in vitro diaphragmatic isometric and isotonic contractile function. The concentrations of contractile proteins, myosin heavy chain isoform, and MAF-box mRNA were measured. Tetanic force decreased by 14% with assisted ventilation and 48% with controlled ventilation. Maximum shortening velocity tended to increase with controlled compared with assisted ventilation and control. Peak power output decreased 20% with assisted ventilation and 41% with controlled ventilation. Contractile proteins were unchanged with either modes of ventilation; myosin heavy chain 2X mRNA tended to increase and that of 2A to decrease with controlled ventilation. MAF-box gene was overexpressed with controlled ventilation. We conclude that preserving diaphragmatic contractions during mechanical ventilation attenuates the force loss induced by complete inactivity and maintains MAF-box gene expression in control.