Journal of muscle research and cell motility

Developmental changes in the activation properties and ultrastructure of fast- and slow-twitch muscles from fetal sheep.

PMID 10471989


At early stages of muscle development, skeletal muscles contract and relax slowly, regardless of whether they are destined to become fast- or slow-twitch. In this study, we have characterised the activation profiles of developing fast- and slow-twitch muscles from a precocial species, the sheep, to determine if the activation profiles of the muscles are characteristically slow when both the fast- and slow-twitch muscles have slow isometric contraction profiles. Single skinned muscle fibres from the fast-twitch flexor digitorum longus (FDL) and slow-twitch soleus muscles from fetal (gestational ages 70, 90, 120 and 140 days; term 147 days) and neonatal (8 weeks old) sheep were used to determine the isometric force-pCa (pCa = -log10[Ca2+]) and force-pSr relations during development. Fast-twitch mammalian muscles generally have a greatly different sensitivity to Ca2+ and Sr2+ whereas slow-twitch muscles have a similar sensitivity to these divalent cations. At all ages studied, the force-pCa and force-pSr relations of the FDL muscle were widely separated. The mean separation of the mid-point of the curves (pCa50-pSr50) was approximately 1.1. This is typical of adult fast-twitch muscle. The force-pCa and force-pSr curves for soleus muscle were also widely separated at 70 and 90 days gestation (pCa50-pSr50 approximately 0.75); between 90 days and 140 days this separation decreased significantly to approximately 0.2. This leads to a paradoxical situation whereby at early stages of muscle development the fast muscles have contraction dynamics of slow muscles but the slow muscles have activation profiles more characteristic of fast muscles. The time course for development of the FDL and soleus is different, based on sarcomere structure with the soleus muscle developing clearly defined sarcomere structure earlier in gestation than the FDL. At 70 days gestation the FDL muscle had no clearly defined sarcomeres. Force (N cm-2) increased almost linearly between 70 and 140 days gestation in both muscle types and there was no difference between the Ca(2+)- and Sr(2+)-activated force throughout development.

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