The skeletal muscle fibre is a syncitium where each myonucleus regulates the gene products in a finite volume of the cytoplasm, i.e., the myonuclear domain (MND). We analysed aging- and gender-related effects on myonuclei organization and the MND size in single muscle fibres from six young (21-31 years) and nine old men (72-96 years), and from six young (24-32 years) and nine old women (65-96 years), using a novel image analysis algorithm applied to confocal images. Muscle fibres were classified according to myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoform expression. Our image analysis algorithm was effective in determining the spatial organization of myonuclei and the distribution of individual MNDs along the single fibre segments. Significant linear relations were observed between MND size and fibre size, irrespective age, gender and MyHC isoform expression. The spatial organization of individual myonuclei, calculated as the distribution of nearest neighbour distances in 3D, and MND size were affected in old age, but changes were dependent on MyHC isoform expression. In type I muscle fibres, average NN-values were lower and showed an increased variability in old age, reflecting an aggregation of myonuclei in old age. Average MND size did not change in old age, but there was an increased MND size variability. In type IIa fibres, average NN-values and MND sizes were lower in old age, reflecting the smaller size of these muscle fibres in old age. It is suggested that these changes have a significant impact on protein synthesis and degradation during the aging process.
© 2010 The Authors Aging Cell © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.