Mechanical properties of rat skeletal muscle after hind limb suspension

Exp Neurol. 1987 Jun;96(3):650-60. doi: 10.1016/0014-4886(87)90226-3.


It is clear that there are events which occur in response to neuromuscular activity that are essential to maintain normal muscle properties. Two factors though to influence muscle contractile properties are tension and electrical activity. To study these variables the hind limbs of 10 postpubertal female Sprague-Dawley rats were prevented from supporting the weight of the body for 4 weeks, then in situ isometric properties were determined and compared with 10 age-matched control rats. The soleus (slow plantarflexor), the medial gastrocnemius (fast plantarflexor), and the tibialis anterior (fast dorsiflexor) were studied. The suspended soleus wet weight was 42% lower and the maximum isometric twitch (Pt) and tetanic (P0) tensions were 62 and 69% lower respectively, than in the control rats. The suspended medial gastrocnemius was 18% lower in wet weight and 14 and 9% lower in P0 and Pt than the controls. No differences in wet weight, P0 or Pt were observed in tibialis anterior. Mean contraction time was 22% shorter in the soleus, 9% in the medial gastrocnemius, and unchanged in the tibialis anterior following suspension. Further, the percent of P0 attained during a 330-ms tetanus at 20 Hz was 15% lower in the suspended soleus and unchanged in the other two muscles. The fatigue index (ratio of tension after 2 min of stimulation at 40 Hz for 330 ms once per second to the maximum tension developed during the test) was unaffected by suspension in the soleus and tibialis anterior but was reduced from 49% to 36% in the medial gastrocnemius. The maximum rate of shortening of all three muscles was unaffected by suspension. These results indicate that suspension of the hind limbs selectively affects the mass and force-generating capabilities of the plantarflexors, particularly the predominantly slow soleus. In contrast, the fatigability of only the fast plantarflexor was increased whereas the slow plantarflexor was unaffected. These results, considered in light of collaborative studies, suggest that the chronic force-time levels in a muscle have an important influence on tension- and speed-related properties but not necessarily the fatigability of that muscle. Further, a marked difference in the sensitivity of the contractile elements of slow and fast muscle to this influence was evident.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Organ Size
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Weightlessness