Contractile and connective tissue protein content of human skeletal muscle: effects of 35 and 90 days of simulated microgravity and exercise countermeasures

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Oct;293(4):R1722-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00292.2007. Epub 2007 Aug 1.


We examined the effects of 35 and 90 days of simulated microgravity with or without resistance-exercise (RE) countermeasures on the content of the general skeletal muscle protein fractions (mixed, sarcoplasmic, and myofibrillar) and specific proteins that are critical for muscle function (myosin, actin, and collagen). Subjects from two studies, using either unilateral lower limb suspension (ULLS) or bed rest (BR), comprised four separate groups: 35 days ULLS (n =11), 35 days ULLS+RE (n = 10), 90 days BR (n = 9), and 90 days BR+RE (n = 8). RE consisted of four sets of seven maximal concentric and eccentric repetitions of the quadriceps femoris muscles that were performed 2 or 3 times per week. Pre- and post-simulated weightlessness muscle biopsies were analyzed from the vastus lateralis of all groups and the soleus of the 35-day ULLS and 90-day BR groups. The general protein fractions and the specific proteins myosin, actin, and collagen of the vastus lateralis were unchanged (P > 0.05) in both control and countermeasures groups over 35 and 90 days, despite large changes in quadriceps femoris muscle volume (35 days ULLS: -9%, 35 days ULLS+RE: +8%; and 90 days BR: -18%, 90 days BR+RE: -1%). The soleus demonstrated a decrease in mixed (35 days ULLS: -12%, P = 0.0001; 90 days BR: -12%, P = 0.004) and myofibrillar (35 days ULLS: -12%, P = 0.009; 90 days BR: -8%, P = 0.04) protein, along with large changes in triceps surae muscle volume (35 days ULLS: -11%; 90 days BR: -29%). Despite the loss of quadriceps femoris muscle volume or preservation with RE countermeasures during simulated microgravity, the quadriceps femoris muscles are able to maintain the concentrations of the general protein pools and the main contractile and connective tissue elements. Soleus muscle protein composition appears to be disproportionately altered during long-duration simulated weightlessness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Connective Tissue / metabolism*
  • Contractile Proteins / metabolism*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Weightlessness Simulation*


  • Contractile Proteins