, Volume 452, Issue 4, pp 464-470
Date: 19 Apr 2006

Single skeletal muscle fiber behavior after a quick stretch in young and older men: a possible explanation of the relative preservation of eccentric force in old age

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The origins of the smaller age-related decrease in eccentric force compared to isometric and concentric conditions in vivo remain unclear. Could this originate from contractile elements of muscle cells? The main intent of the current investigation was to assess the force behavior of muscle cells with aging, during lengthening. Chemically skinned single muscle fibers (n=235) from m. vastus lateralis of six young (mean age 31.6 years) and six older men (mean age 66.1 years) were maximally activated with pCa 4.5 at 15°C. Maximal isometric force and cross-sectional area were measured allowing the calculation of the tension (T 0). A quick stretch (2 nm per half-sarcomere length) was applied and caused an immediate increase in tension followed by a decrease and a secondary delayed and transient rise in tension (phase 3); finally, the tension recovered a steady state value (phase 4). The tension enhancements during phase 3 (ΔT 3) and phase 4 (ΔT 4) were evaluated. The myosin heavy-chain isoform composition of each single fiber was determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. ΔT 3 and ΔT 4 were preserved in older men for both type I and IIa fibers despite a reduction in T 0. Therefore, the age-related preservation of the tension increments after a quick stretch in single muscle fibers could explain in part the smaller decrease in force during eccentric contractions compared to isometric and concentric conditions in vivo with aging usually observed.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00424-006-0167-1