Motor unit types of cat triceps surae muscle

J Physiol. 1967 Nov;193(1):141-60. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1967.sp008348.


1. Motor units, defined as including a motoneurone (cell body, dendrites and axon) plus the muscle unit innervated, have been examined in the triceps surae motor pool of pentobarbital anaesthetized cats.2. The technique of intracellular stimulation and recording which was used permitted measurement of the axonal conduction velocity, post-spike hyperpolarization duration and input resistance of individual motoneurones, and the correlation of these properties with the characteristics of the twitch and tetanus responses of the muscle unit innervated by the cell elicited by direct intracellular stimulation.3. On the basis of muscle unit speed of contraction, motor units were divided into two groups: (a) fast twitch, or F, type with twitch time to peak (TwTp) less than or equal to 30 msec, and (b) slow twitch, or S, type with TwTp of 40 msec or greater. The twitch tensions (TwTen) produced by type F units were significantly larger (median value = 18 g) than the tensions generated by type S units (TwTen median value = 1.6 g). Type F muscle units had much higher tetanus fusion frequencies (median = 85 pulses/sec) than the S type (median 25 pulses/sec), and tended to have smaller tetanus to twitch tension ratios (Tet/Tw) (median = 2.6) than type S units (median = 5.4).4. The gastrocnemius heads contained a mixture of F and S types of muscle units, the proportions found being about 3 to 1 respectively. Units encountered in the soleus muscle were uniformly of type S. The characteristics of gastrocnemius and soleus type S motor units were not identical but appeared to represent quantitative differences in units of the same qualitative type.5. Motoneurones innervating type F muscle units had faster axonal conduction velocities, shorter post-spike hyperpolarizations and lower input resistances than those supplying type S units. However, no combination of motoneurone properties alone was sufficient to separate unambiguously types F and S motor units.