Getting the jump on skeletal muscle disuse atrophy: Preservation of contractile performance in aestivating Cyclorana alboguttata (Günther 1867)

Beth Chapman, Rob S. James, Craig E. Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prolonged immobilisation or unloading of skeletal muscle causes muscle disuse atrophy, which is characterised by a reduction in muscle cross-sectional area and compromised locomotory function. Animals that enter seasonal dormancy, such as hibernators and aestivators, provide an interesting model for investigating atrophy associated with disuse. Previous research on the amphibian aestivator Cyclorana alboguttata (Günther 1867) demonstrated an absence of muscle disuse atrophy after 3 months of aestivation, as measured by gastrocnemius muscle contractile properties and locomotor performance. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effect of aestivation on iliofibularis and sartorius muscle morphology and contractile function of C. alboguttata over a longer, more ecologically relevant time-frame of 9 months. We found that whole muscle mass, muscle cross-sectional area, fibre number and proportions of fibre types remained unchanged after prolonged disuse. There was a significant reduction in iliofibularis fibre cross-sectional area (declined by 36% for oxidative fibre area and 39% for glycolytic fibre area) and sartorius fibre density (declined by 44%). Prolonged aestivation had little effect on the isometric properties of the skeletal muscle of C. alboguttata. There was a significant reduction in the isometric contraction times of the relatively slow-twitch iliofibularis muscle, suggesting that the muscle was becoming slower after 9 months of aestivation (time to peak twitch increased by 25%, time from peak twitch to half relaxation increased by 34% and time from last stimulus to half tetanus relation increased by 20%). However, the results of the work-loop analysis clearly demonstrate that, despite changes to muscle morphology and isometric kinetics, the overall contractile performance and power output levels of muscles from 9-month aestivating C. alboguttata are maintained at control levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-835
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


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