Age-related changes in force and efficiency in rat skeletal muscle.

Research paper by A A De Haan, C J CJ de Ruiter, A A Lind, A J AJ Sargeant

Indexed on: 01 Apr '93Published on: 01 Apr '93Published in: Acta physiologica Scandinavica


We investigated the effect of age on (the reduction of) work output, efficiency and muscle fibre type composition. Rat medial gastrocnemius muscles of three age-groups performed a series of 15 repeated contractions within 6 s (blood flow was arrested). Stimulation and shortening velocities were chosen as optimal for each group, while all muscles shortened over the same relative fibre lengths. The fibre type composition showed a higher proportion of the oxidative type IIBd fibres in the middle-aged group [5 months old; 39.8 +/- 6.8 vs. 23.6 +/- 4.2% of the fibre area in the young rats (1.3 months old)] in contrast to the type IIBm fibres (52.9 vs. 67.9%, respectively), while the old group (22 months old) was not different from the middle-aged group. Work output in the last contraction (relative to the first contraction) was not different between the age-groups (53.1 +/- 18.1; 48.0 +/- 6.5 and 61.1 +/- 6.2%, respectively). High-energy phosphate utilization was not different between the groups (150.6 +/- 11.2; 154.6 +/- 15.6 and 157.2 +/- 7.0 mumol g-1 dry wt, respectively). However, the efficiency was approximately 30% lower in the muscles of the youngest group, which corresponds with a lower specific power and specific tension. Since the change in fibre type composition is unlikely to be the cause of the low efficiency in the young animals, the causes remain unclear, but may be related to the rapid growth of the young rats in our study.