Chronic electrical stimulation drives mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle of a lizard, Varanus exanthematicus

Paul J. Schaeffer, Scott D. Nichols, Stan L. Lindstedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We investigated the capacity for phenotypic plasticity of skeletal muscle from Varanus exanthematicus, the savannah monitor lizard. Iliofibularis muscle from one leg of each lizard was electrically stimulated for 8 weeks. Both stimulated and contralateral control muscles were collected and processed for electron microscopy. We used stereological analysis of muscle cross-sections to quantify the volume densities of contractile elements, sarcoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and intracellular lipids. We found that mitochondrial volume density was approximately fourfold higher in the stimulated muscle compared to controls, which were similar to previously reported values. Sarcoplasmic reticulum volume density was reduced by an amount similar to the increase in mitochondrial volume density while the volume density of contractile elements remained unchanged. Intracellular lipid accumulation was visibly apparent in many stimulated muscle sections but the volume density of lipids did not reach a significant difference. Although monitor lizards lack the highly developed aerobic metabolism of mammals, they appear to possess the capacity for muscle plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3356-3360
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Activity
  • Exercise
  • Intracellular lipid
  • Muscle plasticity
  • Sarcoplasmic reticulum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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