Pflügers Archiv

, Volume 361, Issue 3, pp 241–250

The effects of different patterns of muscle activity on capillary density, mechanical properties and structure of slow and fast rabbit muscles


  • Margaret D. Brown
    • Department of Physiology, Medical SchoolUniversity of Birmingham
  • Mary A. Cotter
    • Department of Physiology, Medical SchoolUniversity of Birmingham
  • Olga Hudlická
    • Department of Physiology, Medical SchoolUniversity of Birmingham
  • Gerta Vrbová
    • Department of Physiology, Medical SchoolUniversity of Birmingham

DOI: 10.1007/BF00587288

Cite this article as:
Brown, M.D., Cotter, M.A., Hudlická, O. et al. Pflugers Arch. (1976) 361: 241. doi:10.1007/BF00587288


When rabbit fast muscles were chronically stimulated at a frequency naturally occurring in nerves to slow muscles (10 Hz), there was a transformation towards a slow muscle type such as an increase of capillary density, increased activity of the oxidative enzyme, succinic dehydrogenase, and a decrease of muscle fibre diameters. After 28 days the intensity and distribution of SDH and the capillary density were similar to those of soleus.

The increases in capillary density preceded the changes in activity of SDH; there was a significantly greater capillary/muscle fibre ratio and number of capillaries/mm2 in muscles stimulated for only 4 days at which time no change could be detected in SDH. These changes were induced by slow frequency stimulation only, and not by an overall increase of activity.

Stimulation of fast muscles for 4 days at a higher frequency naturally occurring in the nerves to fast muscles (short bursts of tetani), with the same total number of stimuli as that used in slow frequency stimulation did not produce any changes in capillary density, activity of SDH or contraction times. No changes were observed in either fast or slow muscles stimulated with short bursts of tetani (and lower total number of impulses) up to 28 days.

Activation of fast muscles at 5 Hz continuously or 10 Hz intermittently also caused an increase in capillary density.

It is therefore concluded that only low frequency activation of fast muscles brings about a transformation of the muscle fibres towards a slow type and that the first noticeable change is an increase in the capillary density.

Key words

Capillary densitySlow and fast musclesChronic stimulationFibre diametersSuccinic dehydrogenase
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© Springer-Verlag 1976