Author(s): Joumaa V, Leonard TR, Herzog W
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Abstract Residual force enhancement has been observed following active stretch of skeletal muscles and single fibres. However, there has been intense debate whether force enhancement is a sarcomeric property, or is associated with sarcomere length instability and the associated development of non-uniformities. Here, we studied force enhancement for the first time in isolated myofibrils (n=18) that, owing to the strict in series arrangement, allowed for evaluation of this property in individual sarcomeres (n=79). We found consistent force enhancement following stretch in all myofibrils and each sarcomere, and forces in the enhanced state typically exceeded the isometric forces on the plateau of the force-length relationship. Measurements were made on the plateau and the descending limb of the force-length relationship and revealed gross sarcomere length non-uniformities prior to and following active myofibril stretching, but in contrast to previous accounts, revealed that sarcomere lengths were perfectly stable under these experimental conditions. We conclude that force enhancement is a sarcomeric property that does not depend on sarcomere length instability, that force enhancement varies greatly for different sarcomeres within the same myofibril and that sarcomeres with vastly different amounts of actin-myosin overlap produce the same isometric steady-state forces. This last finding was not explained by differences in the amount of contractile proteins within sarcomeres, vastly different passive properties of individual sarcomeres or (half-) sarcomere length instabilities, suggesting that the basic mechanical properties of muscles, such as force enhancement, force depression and creep, which have traditionally been associated with sarcomere instabilities and the corresponding dynamic redistribution of sarcomere lengths, are not caused by such instabilities, but rather seem to be inherent properties of the mechanisms of contraction.
This article was published in Proc Biol Sci
and referenced in Journal of Sports Medicine & Doping Studies