Muscle Contraction

Sliding Filament Theory This mechanism is formulated by Hauxley and Hauxley

Sliding Filament Theory Muscle contraction occurs by a sliding filament mechanism whereby the sarcomeres shorten (the Zlines come closer together) by the action of the actin filaments sliding over the myosin filaments. Myosin filaments may look somewhat like a golf club but they are not inflexible. In fact, muscle contraction would be impossible if the myosin molecules did not have a "hinge" along the shaft that allows for a ratchet movement of the head.

attached to Z line. This ratchet movement occurs many times during a muscle contraction. found in both A and I bands ‡ b) Thick filaments: myosin. found in A band ‡ . ‡ Electron microscopy combined with chemical experiments show that muscle is composed of 2 contractile proteins: ‡ a) Thin filaments: actin.‡ The force behind muscle contraction is the ratchet movement of these tiny myosin ‡ heads toward the center of their sarcomere.

overlapping with myosin.When muscle contracts the actin filaments slide into the A band. . When muscle contracts: a) the Z lines move closer together b) the I band becomes shorter c) the A band stays at the same length This is called the "sliding filament" model of muscle contraction.

Myosin head (H) attaches to actin filament (A). pulling on the actin filaments and causing them to slide: Muscle contraction is a little like climbing a rope. After the cross bridge is formed the myosin head bends. repeated over and over .The filaments slide together because myosin attaches to actin and pulls on it. forming a cross bridge. The cross bridge cycle is: grab -> pull -> release.


The nerve impulse is carried from the neuron across the gap to the membrane (sarcolemma) of the muscle cell by a chemical called acetycholine. ‡ The point of attachment of the nerve to the muscle is called a neuromuscular junction. . A motor neuron and its muscle cells are referred to as a motor unit. Muscle cells are "shocked" by nerve impulses from motor neurons. This shortens the sacromere and the entire muscle.‡ During muscle contraction the myofilaments myosin and actin slide toward each other and overlap.

forming a new molecular structure which causes the cross bridge to bend toward the center. pulling the actin filament with it.‡After the impulse is passed an enzyme called acetyl cholinesterase "de-activates" acetylcholine. The cross bridges bind to the active sites. Stimulation of the muscle cell causes Ca++ ions to be released into the cell. readying the muscle for the next nerve impulse. This binds with the actin filaments causing them to expose active sites to the myosin cross bridges. .

This cycle continues until the muscle contraction is complete. straighten the cross bridge. . and allow the cross bridge to form a new bond with another active site further down the actin filament.‡ Energy from ATP is used to break the bond. Then ATP is used to cause active transport to move the calcium ions out of the muscle fiber causing relaxation of the muscle.

Role of Calcium ion and Energy Source (ATP) .

The Ca binds to a second protein. exposing the myosin binding sites. troponin. . With the sites exposed muscle will contract if ATP is present. and this action causes the tropomyosin to be pulled to the side. Ca++ difuses toward the myofibrils and causes contraction. In the resting state the protein tropomyosin winds around actin and covers the myosin binding sites. ‡Impulses conducted along the transverse tubules stimulate the release of Ca++ from the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the cytoplasm.Role of Calcium ions ‡A sudden inflow of Ca is the trigger for muscle contraction.

The Ca++ troponin complex pulls the tropomyosin away from the myosin-binding sites on actin. In this position. tropomyosin physically blocks the myosin heads from binding actin. In a stimulated muscle fiber. thus preventing contraction. and tropomyosin is located close to the myosin-binding sites on the thin filament. the Ca++ released by the sarcoplasmic reticulum binds to troponin.‡ Troponin and Tropoyosin are two regulatory proteins associated with the thin filaments. Tropomyosin lies against the thin filament and troponin is bound to tropomyosin. allowing cross-bridges to form. In a resting muscle fiber. . the concentration of Ca++ in the cytoplasm is very low.

and Ca++ is actively transported from the cytoplasm back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum.‡ Cross-bridges cycles continue as long as Ca++ remains attached to troponin. As Ca++ is released from troponin. tropomyosin returns to its inhibitory position on the thin filament. . When nerve activity ceases. The muscle fiber relaxes. impulses in the muscle fiber also cease. again preventing the myosin heads from binding to actin.

The sarcoplasmic reticulum actively pumps Ca++ back into itself and this requires utilization of ATP.‡ Muscle contraction stops when Ca++ is removed from the immediate environment of the myofilaments. Troponin-tropomyosin reassume their inhibitory position between the actin and myosin molecules once Ca++ is removed. .

picking up energy in one place and releasing it in another. and so is most of the energy stored in fat and starch. Cells use their supply of ATP to power almost very energy-requiring process they carry out. . to moving through their environment and growing. ATP as a small unstable energy carrier that shuttles back and forth within the cell.The bulk of the energy that plants harvest during photosynthesis is channeled into production of ATP.Role of the energy source (ATP) ‡ATP is the chief energy currency of all cells. from supplying activation energy for chemical reactions and actively transporting substances across membranes. ATP is so important in all organisms.

The hydrolysis of ATP activates the myosin heads. the myosin heads function as enzymes.» When a skeletal muscle is at rest. putting them in an orientation that allows them to bind to specific sites on the actin of the thin filaments when the muscle is stimulated to contract. cleaving ATP into ADP and P. .

» ATP is active transport. . In this case. perhaps by changing its shape so that it can transport a particular molecule or ion across the membrane. the movement of substances across a membrane against their concentration gradients. the splitting of ATP activates a carrier protein in the membrane.

. ATP molecule and shuttle another molecule or ion across the membrane.‡ Once the substance has been released on the other side. the carrier protein returns to its nonactived shape. ready to become energized by another.

When ATP runs down after death muscle goes into a state of rigor mortis. It is required for the sliding of the filaments which is accomplished by a bending movement of the myosin heads.‡ ATP is the energy supply for contraction. . It is also required for the separation of actin and myosin which relaxes the muscle.

Role of Motor Units .

In general. The number of fibers is dependent on the necessity for fine control. Those muscles that do not require fine control.Role of motor units ‡The motor nerve and all the fibers it innervates is called the motor unit. . small muscles that react rapidly with fine control have one nerve and only a few muscle fibers. such as the gastrocnemius (calf muscle). may have several hundred muscle fibers per motor unit.

These processes almost always occur simultaneously within normal muscle contraction.‡ The contraction of individual muscle fibers is all-or-none. individual motor units fire asynchronously. Usually. This can be accomplished by increasing the number of motor units contracting at one time (spatial summation) or by increasing the frequency of contraction of individual muscle contractions (temporal summation). Therefore one motor unit within a particular muscle may be as much as 50 times as strong as another. ‡ All motor units are not created equal. Summation is the adding together of individual muscle twitches to make a whole muscle contraction. Therefore. . any graded response must come from the number of motor units stimulated at any one time.

‡Motor unit is the smallest functional element of a skeletal muscle. . In spatial summation motor units are recruited by increasing the strength of the stimulus thereby increasing the strength of the contraction. Muscles that require a finer degree of control have smaller motor units than muscles that require less precise control but must exert more force. The division of the muscle into motor units allows the muscle¶s strength of contraction to be finely graded. a requirement for coordinated movements of the skeleton.Smaller motor units are much more easily excited than larger ones because they are innervated by smaller nerve fibers that have a naturally lower threshold for excitation.

‡ The weakest contractions of a muscle are accomplished by the activation of a few small motor units. more and larger motor units are brought into action. If ever greater forces are required. Additional small motor units are also activated. and the force increments become larger. The initial increments to the total force generated by the muscle are therefore relatively small. . and it is another way in which the strength of muscle contraction is governed by the nervous system. If a slightly stronger contraction is necessary. The use of increased numbers and sizes of motor units in a contraction is termed recruitment.

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