Influence of temperature on muscle recruitment and muscle function in vivo

Am J Physiol. 1990 Aug;259(2 Pt 2):R210-22. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1990.259.2.R210.


Temperature has a large influence on the maximum velocity of shortening (Vmax) and maximum power output of muscle (Q10 = 1.5-3). In some animals, maximum performance and maximum sustainable performance show large temperature sensitivities, because these parameters are dependent solely on mechanical power output of the muscles. The mechanics of locomotion (sarcomere length excursions and muscle-shortening velocities, V) at a given speed, however, are precisely the same at all temperatures. Animals compensate for the diminished power output of their muscles at low temperatures by compressing their recruitment order into a narrower range of locomotor speeds, that is, recruiting more muscle fibers and faster fiber types at a given speed. By examining V/Vmax, I calculate that fish at 10 degrees C must recruit 1.53-fold greater fiber cross section than at 20 degrees C. V/Vmax also appears to be an important design constraint in muscle. It sets the lowest V and the highest V over which a muscle can be used effectively. Because the Vmax of carp slow red muscle has a Q10 of 1.6 between 10 and 20 degrees C, the slow aerobic fibers can be used over a 1.6-fold greater range of swim speeds at the warmer temperature. In some species of fish, Vmax can be increased during thermal acclimation, enabling animals to swim at higher speeds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Forecasting
  • Hot Temperature
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction*
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological*
  • Swimming
  • Temperature*