Oxidative capacity and capillary density of diaphragm motor units

J. G. Enad, M. Fournier, G. C. Sieck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Motor units in the cat diaphragm (DIA) were isolated in situ by microdissection and stimulation of C5 ventral root filaments. Motor units were classified based on their isometric contractile force responses and fatigue indexes (FI). The muscle fibers belonging to individual units (i.e., the muscle unit) were identified using the glycogen-depletion method. Fibers were classified as type I or II based on histochemical staining for myofibrillar adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) after alkaline preincubation. The rate of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) activity of each fiber was determined using a microphotometric procedure. The location of capillaries was determined from muscle cross sections stained for ATPase after acid (pH = 4.2) preincubation. The capillarity of muscle unit fibers was determined by counting the number of capillaries surrounding fibers and by calculating the number of capillaries per fiber area. A significant correlation was found between the fatigue resistance of DIA units and the mean SDH activity of muscle unit fibers. A significant correlation was also observed between DIA unit fatigue resistance and both indexes of muscle unit fiber capillarity. The mean SDH activity and mean capillary density of muscle unit fibers were also correlated. We conclude that DIA motor unit fatigue resistance depends, at least in part, on the oxidative capacity and capillary density of muscle unit fibers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-627
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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