Brown SH, Carr JA, Ward SR, Lieber RL.
Abdominal wall muscles have a unique morphology suggesting a complex role in generating and transferring force to the spinal column. Studying passive mechanical properties of these muscles may provide insights into their ability to transfer force among structures. Biopsies from rectus abdominis (RA), external oblique (EO), internal oblique (IO), and transverse abdominis (TrA) were harvested from male Sprague-Dawley rats, and single muscle fibers and fiber bundles (4-8 fibers ensheathed in their connective tissue matrix) were isolated and mechanically stretched in a passive state. Slack sarcomere lengths were measured and elastic moduli were calculated from stress-strain data. Titin molecular mass was also measured from single muscle fibers. No significant differences were found among the four abdominal wall muscles in terms of slack sarcomere length or elastic modulus. Interestingly, across all four muscles, slack sarcomere lengths were quite long in individual muscle fibers (>2.4 µm), and demonstrated a significantly longer slack length in comparison to fiber bundles (p <0.0001). Also, the extracellular connective tissue matrix provided a stiffening effect and enhanced the resistance to lengthening at long muscle lengths. Titin molecular mass was significantly less in TrA compared to each of the other three muscles (p< 0.0009), but this difference did not correspond to hypothesized differences in stiffness.
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