• horse;
  • muscle;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • oxidative capacity


An assumed link between red cell hypervolaemia, an excessive amount of training and impaired performance of hypervolaemic horses has led to a theory that the muscle fibres could be affected. Myosin heavy chain (MHC)-based fibre type composition in gluteus medius muscle of red blood cell normo- (NV) and hypervolaemic (HV) Standardbred trotters was evaluated using immunohistochemistry. Muscle biopsies were obtained from 13 NV and 16 HV horses. Serial transverse sections were cut and reacted with antibodies against different isoforms of the myosin heavy chains MHCI, MHCIIA and MHCIIX. Sections were also stained for myofibrillar ATPase pH 4,6 to identify types I, IIA and IIB, and NADH tetrazolium reductase to evaluate the oxidative capacity. The results show that types I and IIA fibres corresponded between staining methods, whereas IIB fibres in the ATPase stains were more numerous than pure MHCIIX fibres from immunohistochemistry. Many fibres identified histochemically as type IIB fibres contained both MHC isoforms IIA and IIX (MHCIIAX). Most fibres had a high oxidative capacity, but among the fibres within a section, the lowest was seen subjectively in pure MHCIIX fibres. Immunohistochemical stains make it possible to detect differences in fibre type composition that are not observed with myosin ATPase stainings, as it was found that HV horses had a lower percentage of MHCIIX fibres than NV horses. Immunohistochemical methods are, therefore, valuable for use in further research and clinical studies concerning muscle adaptations.