Fast to slow transformation of denervated and electrically stimulated rat muscle


Corresponding authors T. Lømo: Institute of Neurophysiology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1104, Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway. Email:


  • 1Denervated fast extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles of adult rats were stimulated electrically for up to 4 months with a ‘slow’ pattern resembling the activity in soleus (Sol) motor units and examined with antibodies against myosin heavy chains (MHCs).
  • 2The normal EDL contained, on average, 45 % type IIB, 29 % type IIX, 23 % type IIA and 3 % type I fibres. All type IIB and almost all type IIX fibres disappeared during the first 3 weeks of stimulation. They were replaced by type IIA and type I fibres, whose percentages increased to about 75 and 15, respectively. Type IIA fibres remained at 75 % for nearly 2 months and were then gradually replaced by type I fibres during the next 2 months. The transformation occurred sequentially in the order IIB/IIX → IIA → I, the first step (IIB/IIX → IIA) occurring after a short delay (2 weeks) and the last step (IIA → I in originally IIB or IIX fibres) after a long delay (> 2 months). During the transformation coexpression of MHCs occurred.
  • 3It appears that the transformation to type I fibres occurred in pre-existing type II fibres since no signs of fibre damage or regeneration were observed.
  • 4Normal EDL was also stimulated through an intact nerve with the same pattern for up to 37 days. The effects on fibre type distributions were identical to those observed in the denervated EDL. The result indicated that the Sol-like pattern of evoked muscle activity, rather than nerve-derived trophic influences or denervation per se, was primarily responsible for the fast to slow transformation.