Task-specific design of skeletal muscle: balancing muscle structural composition

Stan L. Lindstedt, Travis McGlothlin, Eric Percy, Judah Pifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Skeletal muscle fibers are composed of three structural elements, each contributing a unique aspect of muscle function, yet each 'competing' in a sense for space inside the cell. The volume occupied by myofibrils determines the force of contraction, the volume of sarcoplasmic reticulum sets the rate of onset and relaxation of a fiber's contraction and hence contraction frequency, and the volume of mitochondria sets the level of sustained performance. The entirety of functional outcomes in muscle, from sustained isometric to high frequency contractions, and from high power output to high endurance, are all primarily attributable to shifts in the proportions (and relationships) of those three structures. This paper examines and reviews these components of muscle first to identify and summarize structure-function 'rules', and second to examine the balance between sometimes competing demands. In particular, we focus on those muscles in which power, endurance and frequency are all simultaneously high (flight muscles), and examine how muscle has 'solved' problems of space and energy demand. From these results and observations it would appear that for flight to have evolved in small animals, the double packing of inner mitochondrial membranes may be expected in animals under 50-80 g in mass, and asynchronous muscle is structurally essential for flight in small insects with wing beat frequencies above about 100 Hz. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-40
Number of pages6
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Asynchronous muscle
  • Hummingbird
  • Insects
  • Mitochondria
  • Muscle structure
  • Myofibrils
  • Rattlesnake
  • Sarcoplasmic reticulum
  • Symmorphosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology


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