Differential effects of a six-day immobilization on newborn rat soleus muscles at two developmental stages

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Our objective was to determine the effects of a six-day immobilization on the musculoskeletal system of the rat during postnatal development at two key periods when the states of innervation are known to be different. This work was undertaken on the soleus muscle since it is well known that postural slow muscles show marked changes after a period of disuse. Thus, the soleus muscle was immobilized in a shortened position either when the innervation was polyneuronal or monosynaptic, respectively from 6 to 12 and from 17 to 23 days. The muscle modifications were followed by ATPase staining and myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoform identification using monoclonal antibodies and SDS–PAGE. The functional properties of skinned fibre bundles were established by calcium/strontium (Ca/Sr) activation characteristics. In control muscles the maturation was characterized by a progressive increase of adult MyHCs (I and IIA) concomitant with a decrease in both the MyHC neo and the Ca affinit y. Between 6 to 12 days, immobilization of the limb induced an increase in histochemical type IIC fibres. Using antibodies we identified new fibre types, classified as a function of their MyHC isoform co-expression. We observed an increase in expression of both MyHC neo and Ca affinity. From 17 to 23 days, the immobilization induced an increase in Ca affinity and marked changes in the MyHC isoform composition: disappearance of MyHC neo and expression of the fast MyHC IIB isoform, which in normal conditions is never expressed in the soleus muscle. We conclude that an immobilization imposed during polyneuronal innervation delays the postnatal maturation of the soleus muscle, whereas when the immobilization is performed under monosynaptic innervation the muscle evolves towards a fast phenotype using a default pathway for MyHC expression.

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