Structural and metabolic properties of rat muscle exposed to weightlessness aboard Cosmos 1887

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Male Wistar rats were subjected to 12.5 days of weightlessness aboard Cosmos 1887. Histomorphometric and biochemical analyses were investigated in soleus (SOL), plantaris (PL) and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles of flight rats (group F) and compared with data from two groups of terrestrial controls: one group living free in a vivarium (group V) and another subjected to a flight simulation except for the state of weightlessness (group S). Relative to groups V and S, no alteration in the percentage distribution of fibres had occurred in SOL, PL or EDL, after the flight. In SOL muscles from group F animals, cross-sectional areas of all fibre types were reduced to a greater extent (− 40%) than capillary to fibre ratio (−24%) leading to a higher capillary density (+33%) than in V and S groups. In PL, type I, IIA and IIB fibre cross-sectional areas were less decreased (-25%). In EDL, only fast-twitch fibre cross-sectional areas showed an average decrease of 30%. Capillary per fibre ratio was reduced by 15% and 28% respectively in PT and EDL muscles from group F rats compared to control groups V and S. Citrate synthase and 3-hydroxyacyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase activities remained unchanged in SOL, PL and EDL following spaceflight. These findings indicate greater atrophy and functional alterations (capillarity) compared to those observed after 7 days of microgravity on Cosmos 1667.