Training effects on the contractile apparatus


DirkPette Faculty of Biology, University of Konstanz, Box M641, D-78457 Konstanz, Germany.


Skeletal muscle is an extremely heterogeneous tissue, composed of a large variety of fibre types. Its dynamical nature is reflected by the ability to adapt to altered functional demands by qualitative alterations in fibre type composition. The molecular basis of this versatility is that specific myofibrillar and Ca2+-regulatory protein isoforms are assembled to functionally specialized fibre types. Based on this diversity, adult muscle fibres are capable of changing their molecular composition by altered gene expression. Myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms and their unique expression in 'pure' fibres, as well as their coexpression in 'hybrid' 'fibres' represent the best markers of muscle fibre diversity and adaptive changes. Chronic low-frequency stimulation (CLFS) and endurance training represent highly suitable models for studying the effects of increased neuromuscular activity on myofibrillar protein isoform expression and fibre type composition. Generally, both models induce fast-to-slow transitions in myofibrillar protein isoforms and fibre types. However, the responses to endurance training are quantitatively less pronounced than those in muscles exposed to CLFS. Parallel changes in isoforms of specific myofibrillar or Ca2+-regulatory proteins during the induced fast-to-slow transitions point to the existence of fibre type-specific patterns of gene expression. The fast-to-slow transitions do not proceed in abrupt jumps from one extreme to the other, but occur in a gradual and orderly sequential manner. Depending on the basal protein isoform profile, and hence the position within the fast–slow spectrum, the adaptive ranges of different fibre types vary. However, adaptive ranges not only depend on a particular fibre type, but also are influenced by species-specific properties.