Design and function of superfast muscles: new insights into the physiology of skeletal muscle

Annu Rev Physiol. 2006;68:193-221. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.68.040104.105418.


Superfast muscles of vertebrates power sound production. The fastest, the swimbladder muscle of toadfish, generates mechanical power at frequencies in excess of 200 Hz. To operate at these frequencies, the speed of relaxation has had to increase approximately 50-fold. This increase is accomplished by modifications of three kinetic traits: (a) a fast calcium transient due to extremely high concentration of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR)-Ca2+ pumps and parvalbumin, (b) fast off-rate of Ca2+ from troponin C due to an alteration in troponin, and (c) fast cross-bridge detachment rate constant (g, 50 times faster than that in rabbit fast-twitch muscle) due to an alteration in myosin. Although these three modifications permit swimbladder muscle to generate mechanical work at high frequencies (where locomotor muscles cannot), it comes with a cost: The high g causes a large reduction in attached force-generating cross-bridges, making the swimbladder incapable of powering low-frequency locomotory movements. Hence the locomotory and sound-producing muscles have mutually exclusive designs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Sacs / physiology
  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Parvalbumins / physiology
  • Physiology, Comparative
  • Snakes / physiology


  • Parvalbumins