Automated methods for the analysis of skeletal muscle fiber size and metabolic type

Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2013;306:275-332. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-407694-5.00007-9.


It is of interest to quantify the size, shape, and metabolic subtype of skeletal muscle fibers in many areas of biomedical research. To do so, skeletal muscle samples are sectioned transversely to the length of the muscle and labeled for extracellular or membrane proteins to delineate the fiber boundaries and additionally for biomarkers related to function or metabolism. The samples are digitally photographed and the fibers "outlined" for quantification of fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) using pointing devices interfaced to a computer, which is tedious, prone to error, and can be nonobjective. Here, we review methods for characterizing skeletal muscle fibers and describe new automated techniques, which rapidly quantify CSA and biomarkers. We discuss the applications of these methods to the characterization of mitochondrial dysfunctions, which underlie a variety of human afflictions, and we present a novel approach, utilizing images from the online Human Protein Atlas to predict relationships between fiber-specific protein expression, function, and metabolism.

Keywords: CyteSeer®; Cytochrome C oxidase; Dehydrogenases; Denervation; High-content analysis; Mitochondrial disease; Muscular dystrophy; MyHC family; Skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Automation / methods*
  • Cell Size*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / cytology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*