Myonuclear domain size and myosin isoform expression in muscle fibres from mammals representing a 100,000-fold difference in body size

Exp Physiol. 2009 Jan;94(1):117-29. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2008.043877. Epub 2008 Sep 26.


This comparative study of myonuclear domain (MND) size in mammalian species representing a 100,000-fold difference in body mass, ranging from 25 g to 2500 kg, was undertaken to improve our understanding of myonuclear organization in skeletal muscle fibres. Myonuclear domain size was calculated from three-dimensional reconstructions in a total of 235 single muscle fibre segments at a fixed sarcomere length. Irrespective of species, the largest MND size was observed in muscle fibres expressing fast myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms, but in the two smallest mammalian species studied (mouse and rat), MND size was not larger in the fast-twitch fibres expressing the IIA MyHC isofom than in the slow-twitch type I fibres. In the larger mammals, the type I fibres always had the smallest average MND size, but contrary to mouse and rat muscles, type IIA fibres had lower mitochondrial enzyme activities than type I fibres. Myonuclear domain size was highly dependent on body mass in the two muscle fibre types expressed in all species, i.e. types I and IIA. Myonuclear domain size increased in muscle fibres expressing both the beta/slow (type I; r = 0.84, P < 0.001) and the fast IIA MyHC isoform (r = 0.90; P < 0.001). Thus, MND size scales with body size and is highly dependent on muscle fibre type, independent of species. However, myosin isoform expression is not the sole protein determining MND size, and other protein systems, such as mitochondrial proteins, may be equally or more important determinants of MND size.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / metabolism*
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / metabolism*
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / metabolism*
  • Perissodactyla
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine
  • Young Adult


  • Protein Isoforms
  • DNA
  • Myosin Heavy Chains