, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 95-102

Selection for rapid growth increases the number and the size of muscle fibres without changing their typing in chickens

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Quantitative (muscle fibre number and cross-sectional areas) and qualitative (myosin isoforms and metabolic enzyme activities) characteristics of two muscles, M. pectoralis major and M. anterior latissimus dorsi, were compared among male chickens of two lines during growth from hatching to adulthood. The lines were derived from a divergent selection based on growth rate. The two muscles were chosen on the basis of their histochemical profile. Pectoralis major muscle contains only fast contracting muscle fibres whereas anterior latissimus dorsi muscle is almost entirely made up with slow contracting fibres. At both ages, the two lines showed similar fibre type distributions. At hatching, fibre cross-sectional areas were equivalent in the two lines, but after the first week, animals from the fast growing line exhibited wider fibre areas, whatever the muscle, than animals from the slow growing line. The total number of fibres in a muscle was found greater in the fast growing line, irrespective of whether it was exactly determined (anterior latissimus dorsi muscle, +20%) or only estimated (pectoralis major muscle). This number remains constant in the two lines throughout the growth. Myosin isoform profiles and metabolic enzyme activities were similar in the two lines, at both ages, and were in good agreement with the histochemical muscle fibre profiles.