Short-Range Mechanical Properties of Skeletal and Cardiac Muscles

Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 682)


Striated muscles are disproportionately stiff for small movements. This facet of their behavior can be demonstrated by measuring the force produced when the muscle is stretched more than about 1% of its initial length. When this is done, it can be seen that force rises rapidly during the initial phases of the movement and much less rapidly during the latter stages of the stretch. Experiments performed using chemically permeabilized skeletal and cardiac muscles show that the initial stiffness of the preparations increases in proportion with isometric force as the free Ca2+ concentration in the bathing solution is raised from a minimal to a saturating value. This is strong evidence that the short-range mechanical properties of activated muscle result from stretching myosin cross-bridges that are attached between the thick and thin filaments. Relaxed intact muscles also exhibit short-range mechanical properties but the molecular mechanisms underlying this behavior are less clear. This chapter summarizes some of the interesting features of short-range mechanical properties in different types of muscle preparation, describes some of the likely underlying mechanisms and discusses the potential physiological significance of the behavior.


Muscle stiffness Muscle mechanics Myosin SREC 



This work was supported by American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant 0630079N, NIH AG021862, NIH HL090749 and the University of Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physiology & Center for Muscle BiologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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