• Muscle;
  • Supraspinatus;
  • Infraspinatus;
  • Myofiber type;
  • Myofiber-type composition;
  • Histochemistry;
  • Sheep


Background: The m. supraspinatus stabilizes the shoulder joint to bear the body weight, and the m. infraspinatus assists in extension and flexion of the joint in sheep. Postural muscles have many SO myofibers, whereas locomotory muscles have numerous fast-twitch myofibers. In sheep the distribution of myofiber types within the two muscles, necessary for a better understanding of postural function, remains to be clarified.

Methods: Muscle samples were removed from the whole transverse sections of the dorsal, middle, and ventral compartments of the m. supraspinatus and m. infraspinatus of sheep. Myofibers were classified into FG, FOG, SO-1, and SO-2 myofibers by histochemical methods.

Results: The distribution of SO myofibers changed more greatly in the m. supraspinatus (15.0–99.1%) than in the m. infraspinatus (24.5–62.3%). SO myofibers were concentrated markedly in the caudal and deep regions near the spine and fossa of the scapula in the m. supraspinatus and distributed more in the medial part than in the lateral part in the m. infraspinatus. Such changes were caused by increases in percentage of SO-2 myofibers and not SO-1 myofibers. The craniolateral regions of the m. supraspinatus and the caudolateral regions of the m. infraspinatus had many fast-twitch (FOG plus FG) myofibers suited for rapid extension and flexion of the shoulder joint.

Conclusions: The m. supraspinatus has the compartmentalized, deep, and caudal regions occupied by SO myofibers, which seem to be specialized for maintenance of the joint extension. The medial region of the m. infraspinatus may assist in the joint stabilization. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.