Effect of age and cold exposure on morphofunctional characteristics of skeletal muscle in neonatal pigs
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Muscular changes accompanying and/or promoting the rapid postnatal improvement of the thermogenic efficiency of shivering were investigated in piglets. Animals were obtained at birth or killed after 5 days at thermoneutrality (34–30 °C) or in the cold (24–15 °C), to stimulate intense shivering thermogenesis. Fast-twitch-glycolytic (longissimus lumborum) and slow-twitch-oxidative (rhomboid) muscles were prepared for electron microscopic examination and chemical measurements. Muscle-specific changes in energy stores and metabolism were observed after birth, including the switch from glycogen to lipids and variation of the lactate/pyruvate ratio corresponding to the progressive acquisition of the metabolic type of the mature muscles. There was major age-related and/or cold-induced development of the structures involved in excitation-contraction coupling (triadic profiles, +80% in the cold), oxidative metabolism (number of lipid droplets, +81% with age in the cold; number of mitochondria, +29% with age or cold; surface of mitochondrial inner membranes, +18% with age and +32% in the cold) and contraction potential (myofibril volume, +62% with age). In contrast, neither age nor cold affected capillary volume density and capillary-to-fibre ratio. The observed changes reflect the immaturity and remarkable plasticity of piglet skeletal muscle and are likely to underlie its enhanced capacity for shivering thermogenesis after birth.
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