Evidence of fibre hyperplasia in human skeletal muscles from healthy young men?

A left-right comparison of the fibre number in whole anterior tibialis muscles
  • M. Sjöström
  • J. Lexell
  • A. Eriksson
  • C. C. Taylor


Cross-sections (thickness 10 μm) of whole autopsied left and right anterior tibialis muscles of seven young previously healthy right-handed men (mean age 23 years, range 18–32 years) were prepared for light-microscope enzyme histochemistry. Muscle cross-sectional area and total number of fibres, mean fibre size (indirectly determined) and proportion of the different fibre types (type 1 and type 2 on basis of myofibrillar adenosine triphosphatase characteristics), in each muscle cross-section were determined. The analysis showed that the cross-sectional area of the left muscle was significantly larger (P<0.05), and the total number of fibres was significantly higher (P<0.05), than for the corresponding right muscle. There was no significant difference for the mean fibre size or the proportion of the two fibre types. The results imply that long-term asymmetrical low-level daily demands on muscles of the left and the right lower leg in right-handed individuals provide enough stimuli to induce an enlargement of the muscles on the left side, and that this enlargement is due to an increase in the number of muscle fibres (fibre hyperplasia). Calculations based on the data also explain why the underlying process of hyperplasia is difficult, or even impossible, to detect in standard muscle biopsies.

Key words

Muscle Muscle fibres Histocytochemistry Hyperplasia Handedness 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baumann H, Jäggi M, Soland F, Howald H, Schaub MC (1987) Exercise training induces transitions of myosin isoform subunits within histochemically typed human muscle fibres. Pflügers Arch 409:349–360Google Scholar
  2. Belmont L, Birch HG (1963) Lateral dominance and right-left awareness in normal children. Child Dev 34:257–270Google Scholar
  3. Bouchard C, Simoneu JA, Lortie G, Boulay MR, Marcotte M, Thibault MC (1986) Genetic effects in human skeletal muscle fibre type distribution and enzyme activities. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 64:1245–1251Google Scholar
  4. Dickstein R, Pillar T, Hocherman S (1988) The contribution of vision and of sideness to responses of the ankle musculature to continuous movement of the base of support. Int J Neurosci 40:101–108Google Scholar
  5. Fugl-Meyer AR, Gustavsson L, Burstedt Y (1980) Isokinetic and static plantar flexion characteristics. Eur J Appl Physiol 45:221–234Google Scholar
  6. Fugl-Meyer AR, Eriksson A, Sjöström M, Söderström G (1982) Is muscle structure influenced by genetical or functional factors? A study of three forearm muscles. Acta Physiol Scand 114:277–281Google Scholar
  7. Gorza L, Gundersen K, Lömo T, Schiaffino S, Westgaard RH (1988) Slow-to-fast transformation of denervated soleus muscles by chronic high-frequency stimulation in the rat. J Physiol (Lond) 402:627–649Google Scholar
  8. Grace TG, Sweetster ER, Nelson MA, Ydens LR, Skipper BJ (1984) Isokinetic muscle imbalance and knee joint injuries. J Bone Joint Surg [Am] 66:734–740Google Scholar
  9. Green HJ, Thomson JA, Daub WD, Houston ME, Ranney DA (1979) Fiber composition, fiber size and enzyme activities in vastus lateralis of elite athletes involved in high intensity exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 41:109–117Google Scholar
  10. Hageman PA, Gillespie DM, Hill LD (1988) Effects of speed and limb dominance on eccentric and concentric isokinetic testing of the knee. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 10:59–65Google Scholar
  11. Helliwell TR, Coakley J, Smith PEM, Edwards R (1987) The morphology and morphometry of the normal human tibialis anterior muscle. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol 13:297–307Google Scholar
  12. Henriksson-Larsén KB, Lexell J, Sjöström M (1983) Distribution of different fibre types in human skeletal muscles. Method for the preparation and analysis of cross-sections of whole tibialis anterior. Histochem J 15:167–178Google Scholar
  13. Hsu JD, Slager UT, Swank SM, Robinson MH (1988) Idiopathic scoliosis: a clinical, morphometric, and histopathological correlation. J Pediatr Orthop 8:147–152Google Scholar
  14. Larsson L, Tesch PA (1986) Motor unit fibre density in extremely hypertrophied skeletal muscles in man. Electrophysiological signs of muscle fibre hyperplasia. Eur J Appl Physiol 55:130–136Google Scholar
  15. Lexell J, Henriksson-Larsen K, Sjöström M (1983) Distribution of different fibre types in human skeletal muscles: 2. A study of cross-sections of whole m. vastus lateralis. Acta Physiol Scand 117:115–122Google Scholar
  16. Lexell J, Taylor C, Sjöström M (1988) What is the cause of the ageing atrophy? Total number, size and proportion of different fiber types studied in whole vastus lateralis muscle from 15 to 83 year old men. J Neurol Sci 84:275–294Google Scholar
  17. Lexell J, Taylor C (1991) The fiber density; a fast and accurate way to estimate human muscle fiber areas. Muscle Nerve 14 (in press)Google Scholar
  18. MacDougall JD, Sale DG, Elder GCB, Sutton JR (1982) Muscle ultrastructural characteristics of elite power lifters and bodybuilders. Eur J Appl Physiol 48:117–126Google Scholar
  19. MacDougall JD, Sale DG, Alway SE, Sutton JR (1984) Muscle fiber number in biceps brachii in bodybuilders and control subjects. J Appl Physiol 57:1399–1403Google Scholar
  20. Minotti JR, Johnson EC, Hudson TL, Sibbitt RR, Wise LE, Fukushima E, Icenogle MV (1989) Forearm metabolic asymmetry detected by 31P-NMR during submaximal exercise. J Appl Physiol 67:324–329Google Scholar
  21. Neumann DA, Soderberg GL, Cook TM (1989) Electromyographic analysis of hip abductor musculature in healthy right-handed persons. Phys Ther 69:431–440Google Scholar
  22. Pette D, Vrbova G (1985) Neural control of phenotypic expression in mammalian muscle. Muscle Nerve 8:676–689Google Scholar
  23. Richardson JTE (1978) A factor analysis of self-reported handedness. Neuropsychologia 16:747–748Google Scholar
  24. Salmons S, Henriksson J (1981) The adaptive response of skeletal muscle to increased use. Muscle Nerve 4:94–105Google Scholar
  25. Schantz P, Randall-Fox E, Norgren P, Tydén A (1981) The relationship between the mean muscle fibre area and the muscle cross-sectional area of the thigh in subjects with large differences in thigh girth. Acta Physiol Scand 113:537–539Google Scholar
  26. Tanaka M, McDonagh MJN, Davies CTM (1984) A comparison of the mechanical properties of the first dorsal interosseus in the dominant and non-dominant hand. Eur J Appl Physiol 53:17–20Google Scholar
  27. Taylor NAS, Wilkinson JG (1986) Exercise-induced skeletal muscle growth. Hypertrophy or hyperplasia? Sports Med 3:190–200Google Scholar
  28. Tesch P, Larsson L (1982) Muscle hypertrophy in bodybuilders. Eur J Appl Physiol 49:301–306Google Scholar
  29. Wyatt MP, Edwards AM (1981) Comparison of quadriceps and hamstring torque values during isokinetic exercise. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 3:57–61Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Sjöström
    • 1
  • J. Lexell
    • 2
  • A. Eriksson
    • 3
  • C. C. Taylor
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Social Medicine and SurgeryUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden
  4. 4.Department of StatisticsUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowGreat Britain

Personalised recommendations