Plasticity of myonuclear number in hypertrophied and atrophied mammalian skeletal muscle fibers

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1995 May;78(5):1969-76. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1995.78.5.1969.


Although a mammalian skeletal muscle fiber may contain thousands of myonuclei, the importance of this number or the potential to modulate it in adult muscle has not been clearly demonstrated. Using immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, we examined the plasticity of myonuclear number and fiber size in isolated fast and slow fiber segments from adult cat hindlimb muscles in response to chronic alterations in neuromuscular activity and loading. Compared with slow fibers in the soleus of control cats, myonuclear number in presumably transformed fast fibers was 32% lower and fiber size was decreased 73% after elimination of neuromuscular activation for 6 mo by spinal isolation. Slow fibers in the soleus of spinal-isolated cats had smaller cross-sectional areas, whereas myonuclear number was not significantly different than that in the control cats. Myonuclear number in fast plantaris fibers was more than threefold higher and fiber size was 2.8-fold higher after 3 mo of functional overload compared with the plantaris of control cats. Compared with control slow plantaris fibers, myonuclear number and fiber size also increased in overloaded slow plantaris fibers. These results demonstrate that changes in myonuclear number are associated with changes in myosin type and suggest that modulations in the amount of available DNA may be a factor in regulating cytoplasmic volume of muscle fibers in response to chronic changes in neuromuscular activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Cats
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Decerebrate State / physiopathology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / metabolism
  • Hypertrophy / pathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / ultrastructure
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / ultrastructure*
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / ultrastructure
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / ultrastructure*
  • Myosin Subfragments / metabolism
  • Myosins / metabolism


  • Myosin Subfragments
  • Myosins