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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • interosseus muscle;
  • suspensory ligament;
  • elastic energy storage;
  • muscle architecture

Abstract

We studied the forelimb interosseus muscle in horses, Equus caballus, to determine the muscular properties inherent in its function. Some authors have speculated that the equine interosseus contains muscle fibers at birth only to undergo loss of these fibers through postnatal ontogeny. We describe the muscle fibers in eight interosseus specimens from adult horses. These fibers were studied histochemically using myosin ATPase studies and immunocytochemically using several antibodies directed against type I and type II myosin heavy chain antibodies. We determined that 95% of the fibers were type I, presumed slow-twitch fibers. All fibers exhibited normal morphological appearance in terms of fiber diameter and cross-sectional area, suggesting that the muscles are undergoing normal cycles of recruitment. SDS-PAGE studies of myosin heavy chain isoforms were consistent with these observations of primarily slow-twitch muscle. Fibers were determined to be ∼800 μm long when studied using nitric acid digestion protocols. Short fiber length combined with high pinnation angles suggest that the interosseus muscle is able to generate large amounts of force but can produce little work (measured as pulling the distal tendon proximally). While the equine interosseus muscle has undergone a general reduction of muscle content during its evolution, it remains composed of a significant muscular component that likely contributes to forelimb stability and elastic storage of energy during locomotion. J. Morphol. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.