Residual force enhancement after stretch in striated muscle. A consequence of increased myofilament overlap?

J Physiol. 2012 Mar 15;590(6):1339-45. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.222729. Epub 2012 Feb 13.


When skeletal muscle is stretched above optimal sarcomere length during tetanic activity there is an increase in force that stays above the isometric force level throughout the activity period. This long-lasting increase in contractile force, generally referred to as 'residual force enhancement after stretch' (FE(resid)), has been studied in great detail in various muscle preparations over more than half a century. Substantial evidence has been presented to show that non-uniform sarcomere behaviour plays a major part in the development of FE(resid). However, in a great number of recent studies the role of sarcomere non-uniformity has been challenged and alternative mechanisms have instead been proposed to explain the increase in force such as enhancement of cross-bridge function and/or strengthening of parallel elastic elements along the muscle fibres. This article presents a short review of the salient features of FE(resid) and provides evidence that non-uniform sarcomere behaviour is indeed likely to play a major role in the development of FE(resid). Electron microscopical studies of fibres rapidly fixed after active stretch demonstrate that, dispersed in the preparation, there are assymetrical length changes within the two halves of myofibrillar sarcomeres resulting in greater filament overlap in one half of the sarcomere than in the opposite sarcomere half. Sarcomere halves with increased filament overlap will consequently be in a situation where they are able to produce a greater force than that recorded in the isometric control. Weaker regions in series will be able to keep the enhanced force by recruitment of elastic elements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sarcomeres / physiology