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10.1 Overview of Muscle Tissues

Muscle is the tissue in animals that allows for active movement of the body or materials within the body. There are three types of muscle tissue: skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and smooth muscle. Most of the body’s skeletal muscle produces movement by acting on the skeleton. Cardiac muscle is found in the wall of the heart and pumps blood through the circulatory system.

Smooth muscle is found in the skin, where it is associated with hair follicles; it also is found in the walls of internal organs, blood vessels, and internal passageways, where it assists in moving materials.

10.2 Skeletal Muscle

Skeletal muscles contain connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. There are three layers of connective tissue: epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium. Skeletal muscle fibers are organized into groups called fascicles. Blood vessels and nerves enter the connective tissue and branch in the cell. Muscles attach to bones directly or through tendons or aponeuroses. Skeletal muscles maintain posture, stabilize bones and joints, control internal movement, and generate heat.

Skeletal muscle fibers are long, multinucleated cells. The membrane of the cell is the sarcolemma; the cytoplasm of the cell is the sarcoplasm. The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is a form of endoplasmic reticulum. Muscle fibers are composed of myofibrils. The striations are created by the organization of actin and myosin resulting in the banding pattern of myofibrils.

10.3 Muscle Fiber Contraction and Relaxation

A sarcomere is the smallest contractile portion of a muscle. Myofibrils are composed of thick and thin filaments. Thick filaments are composed of the protein myosin; thin filaments are composed of the protein actin. Troponin and tropomyosin are regulatory proteins.

Muscle contraction is described by the sliding filament model of contraction. ACh is the neurotransmitter that binds at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) to trigger depolarization, and an action potential travels along the sarcolemma to trigger calcium release from SR. The actin sites are exposed after Ca++ enters the sarcoplasm from its SR storage to activate the troponin-tropomyosin complex so that the tropomyosin shifts away from the sites. The cross-bridging of myosin heads docking into actin-binding sites is followed by the “power stroke”—the sliding of the thin filaments by thick filaments. The power strokes are powered by ATP. Ultimately, the sarcomeres, myofibrils, and muscle fibers shorten to produce movement.

10.4 Nervous System Control of Muscle Tension

The number of cross-bridges formed between actin and myosin determines the amount of tension produced by a muscle. The length of a sarcomere is optimal when the zone of overlap between thin and thick filaments is greatest. Muscles that are stretched or compressed too greatly do not produce maximal amounts of power. A motor unit is formed by a motor neuron and all of the muscle fibers that are innervated by that same motor neuron. A single contraction is called a twitch. A muscle twitch has a latent period, a contraction phase, and a relaxation phase. A graded muscle response allows variation in muscle tension. Summation occurs as successive stimuli are added together to produce a stronger muscle contraction. Tetanus is the fusion of contractions to produce a continuous contraction. Increasing the number of motor neurons involved increases the amount of motor units activated in a muscle, which is called recruitment. Muscle tone is the constant low-level contractions that allow for posture and stability.

10.5 Types of Muscle Fibers

ATP provides the energy for muscle contraction. The three mechanisms for ATP regeneration are creatine phosphate, anaerobic glycolysis, and aerobic metabolism. Creatine phosphate provides about the first 15 seconds of ATP at the beginning of muscle contraction. Anaerobic glycolysis produces small amounts of ATP in the absence of oxygen for a short period. Aerobic metabolism utilizes oxygen to produce much more ATP, allowing a muscle to work for longer periods. Muscle fatigue, which has many contributing factors, occurs when muscle can no longer contract. An oxygen debt is created as a result of muscle use. The three types of muscle fiber are slow oxidative (SO), fast oxidative (FO) and fast glycolytic (FG). SO fibers use aerobic metabolism to produce low power contractions over long periods and are slow to fatigue. FO fibers use aerobic metabolism to produce ATP but produce higher tension contractions than SO fibers. FG fibers use anaerobic metabolism to produce powerful, high-tension contractions but fatigue quickly.

10.6 Exercise and Muscle Performance

Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle mass due to the addition of structural proteins. The opposite of hypertrophy is atrophy, the loss of muscle mass due to the breakdown of structural proteins. Endurance exercise causes an increase in cellular mitochondria, myoglobin, and capillary networks in SO fibers. Endurance athletes have a high level of SO fibers relative to the other fiber types. Resistance exercise causes hypertrophy. Power-producing muscles have a higher number of FG fibers than of slow fibers. Strenuous exercise causes muscle cell damage that requires time to heal. Some athletes use performance-enhancing substances to enhance muscle performance. Muscle atrophy due to age is called sarcopenia and occurs as muscle fibers die and are replaced by connective and adipose tissue.

10.7 Cardiac Muscle Tissue

Cardiac muscle is striated muscle that is present only in the heart. Cardiac muscle fibers have a single nucleus, are branched, and joined to one another by intercalated discs that contain gap junctions for depolarization between cells and desmosomes to hold the fibers together when the heart contracts. Contraction in each cardiac muscle fiber is triggered by Ca++ ions in a similar manner as skeletal muscle, but here the Ca++ ions come from SR and through voltage-gated calcium channels in the sarcolemma. Pacemaker cells stimulate the spontaneous contraction of cardiac muscle as a functional unit, called a syncytium.

10.8 Smooth Muscle

Smooth muscle is found throughout the body around various organs and tracts. Smooth muscle cells have a single nucleus, and are spindle-shaped. Smooth muscle cells can undergo hyperplasia, mitotically dividing to produce new cells. The smooth cells are nonstriated, but their sarcoplasm is filled with actin and myosin, along with dense bodies in the sarcolemma to anchor the thin filaments and a network of intermediate filaments involved in pulling the sarcolemma toward the fiber’s middle, shortening it in the process. Ca++ ions trigger contraction when they are released from SR and enter through opened voltage-gated calcium channels. Smooth muscle contraction is initiated when the Ca++ binds to intracellular calmodulin, which then activates an enzyme called myosin kinase that phosphorylates myosin heads so they can form the cross-bridges with actin and then pull on the thin filaments. Smooth muscle can be stimulated by pacesetter cells, by the autonomic nervous system, by hormones, spontaneously, or by stretching. The fibers in some smooth muscle have latch-bridges, cross-bridges that cycle slowly without the need for ATP; these muscles can maintain low-level contractions for long periods. Single-unit smooth muscle tissue contains gap junctions to synchronize membrane depolarization and contractions so that the muscle contracts as a single unit. Single-unit smooth muscle in the walls of the viscera, called visceral muscle, has a stress-relaxation response that permits muscle to stretch, contract, and relax as the organ expands. Multiunit smooth muscle cells do not possess gap junctions, and contraction does not spread from one cell to the next.

10.9 Development and Regeneration of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue arises from embryonic mesoderm. Somites give rise to myoblasts and fuse to form a myotube. The nucleus of each contributing myoblast remains intact in the mature skeletal muscle cell, resulting in a mature, multinucleate cell. Satellite cells help to repair skeletal muscle cells. Smooth muscle tissue can regenerate from stem cells called pericytes, whereas dead cardiac muscle tissue is replaced by scar tissue. Aging causes muscle mass to decrease and be replaced by noncontractile connective tissue and adipose tissue.

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