Differential serial sarcomere number adaptations in knee extensor muscles of rats is contraction type dependent

Timothy A. Butterfield, Timothy R. Leonard, Walter Herzog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Sarcomerogenesis, or the addition of sarcomeres in series within a fiber, has a profound impact on the performance of a muscle by increasing its contractile velocity and power. Sarcomerogenesis may provide a beneficial adaptation to prevent injury when a muscle consistently works at long lengths, accounting for the repeated-bout effect. The association between eccentric exercise, sarcomerogenesis and the repeated-bout effect has been proposed to depend on damage, where regeneration allows sarcomeres to work at shorter lengths for a given muscle-tendon unit length. To gain additional insight into this phenomenon, we measured fiber dynamics directly in the vastus lateralis (VL) muscle of rats during uphill and downhill walking, and we measured serial sarcomere number in the VL and vastus intermedius (VI) after chronic training on either a decline or incline grade. We found that the knee extensor muscles of uphill walking rats undergo repeated active concentric contractions, and therefore they suffer no contraction-induced injury. Conversely, the knee extensor muscles during down-hill walking undergo repeated active eccentric contractions. Serial sarcomere numbers change differently for the uphill and downhill exercise groups, and for the VL and VI muscles. Short muscle lengths for uphill concentric-biased contractions result in a loss of serial sarcomeres, and long muscle lengths for downhill eccentric-biased contractions result in a gain of serial sarcomeres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1352-1358
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Concentric contraction
  • Eccentric contraction
  • Fiber strain
  • Force-length relationship
  • Repeated-bout effect
  • Sarcomerogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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