After-effects of repetitive stimulation at low frequency on fast-contracting motor units of cat muscle

J Physiol. 1983 Jul:340:129-43. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1983.sp014754.


Twitch and tetanic contractions of single motor units of the cat peroneus tertius muscle were examined after application of a test allowing their identification as either fast fatigable (f.f.) or fast fatigue-resistant (f.r.) or fast intermediate (f.i.) or slow units as established by Burke, Levine, Tsairis & Zajac (1973). The test was found to leave two kinds of after-effects in f.f., f.r. and f.i. units whereas it did not affect slow units. The first after-effect was an early and brief potentiation of twitch tension occurring in all f.r. and f.i. units and in most f.f. units. The second after-effect, termed 'delayed fatigue', was a prolonged depression of tension output, that developed slowly following the early potentiation in all f.f. and f.i. units and more than half of the f.r. units. One hour after the test, unfused tetanic contractions elicited by 20-40/sec stimulation were deeply depressed in motor units that had been left without stimulation since the end of the test. Recovery took place in 3-5 hr. Motor units affected by delayed fatigue could nevertheless be made to develop nearly normal tension by gradual build-up upon prolonged stimulation at 30-40/sec. Maximal tetanic contractions elicited by 200/sec stimulation were much less depressed during delayed fatigue than unfused tetanic contractions. These observations suggest that contractile mechanism were not impaired by delayed fatigue. Since absence of change in muscle action potential indicated that excitation of muscle fibres was not affected either, delayed fatigue might be due to a temporary failure of excitation-contraction coupling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Cats
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Time Factors