Interactions between connected half-sarcomeres produce emergent mechanical behavior in a mathematical model of muscle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Most reductionist theories of muscle attribute a fiber's mechanical properties to the scaled behavior of a single halfsarcomere. Mathematical models of this type can explain many of the known mechanical properties of muscle but have to incorporate a passive mechanical component that becomes ∼300% stiffer in activating conditions to reproduce the force response elicited by stretching a fast mammalian muscle fiber. The available experimental data suggests that titin filaments, which are the mostly likely source of the passive component, become at most ∼30% stiffer in saturating Ca2+ solutions. The work described in this manuscript used computer modeling to test an alternative systems theory that attributes the stretch response of a mammalian fiber to the composite behavior of a collection of half-sarcomeres. The principal finding was that the stretch response of a chemically permeabilized rabbit psoas fiber could be reproduced with a framework consisting of 300 half-sarcomeres arranged in 6 parallel myofibrils without requiring titin filaments to stiffen in activating solutions. Ablation of inter-myofibrillar links in the computer simulations lowered isometric force values and lowered energy absorption during a stretch. This computed behavior mimics effects previously observed in experiments using muscles from desmin-deficient mice in which the connections between Z-disks in adjacent myofibrils are presumably compromised. The current simulations suggest that muscle fibers exhibit emergent properties that reflect interactions between halfsarcomeres and are not properties of a single half-sarcomere in isolation. It is therefore likely that full quantitative understanding of a fiber's mechanical properties requires detailed analysis of a complete fiber system and cannot be achieved by focusing solely on the properties of a single half-sarcomere.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1000560
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Interactions between connected half-sarcomeres produce emergent mechanical behavior in a mathematical model of muscle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this