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Laryngeal muscle fibre types


  • J. F. Y. Hoh

    1. Discipline of Physiology and Institute for Biomedical Research, Faculty of Medicine, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Dr J. F. Y. Hoh, Discipline of Physiology, Bldg F13, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


The internal laryngeal muscles have evolved to subserve the highly specialized functions of airways protection, respiration, and phonation. Their contractile properties, histochemistry, biochemical properties, myosin heavy chain (MyHC) expression and their regulation by nerves and hormones are reviewed and compared with limb muscle fibres. Cricothyroid, the vocal cord tensor, is limb-like in MyHC composition and fibre type properties, while the vocal fold abductor and adductors are allotypically different, with capacity for expressing an isoform of MyHC that is kinetically faster than the fastest limb MyHC. In rats and rabbits the faster isoform is the extraocular (EO) MyHC, while in carnivores, it is the IIB MyHC. These adaptations enable the abductor and adductor muscles to remain always faster than the cricothyroid as the latter changes in speed during evolution to match changing metabolic and respiratory rates in relation to scaling with body mass. Such phylogenetic plasticity is vital to the airways protection and respiratory functions of these muscles. The posterior cricoarythenoid, the abductor muscle, is tonically driven during expiration, and consequently has a slower fibre type profile than the principal adductor, the thyroarythenoid. The human thyroarythenoid appears not to express EO or IIB MyHC significantly, but is unique in expressing the slow-tonic MyHC. The concepts of allotype and phylogenetic plasticity help to explain differences in fibre type between limb and laryngeal muscles and between homologous laryngeal muscles in different species. Laryngeal muscle fibres exhibit physiological plasticity as do limb muscles, being subject to neural and hormonal modulation.