A number of single fibres were isolated by dissection of four bovine masseter (ma) muscles, three rectus abdominis (ra) muscles and eight sternomandibularis (sm) muscles. By histochemical criteria these muscles contain respectively, solely slow fibres (often called type I), predominantly fast fibres (type II), and a mixture of fast and slow. The fibres were analysed by conventional sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis and the gels stained with Coomassie Blue. Irrespective of the muscle, every fibre could be classed into one of two broad groups based on the mobility of proteins in the range 135000-170000 daltons. When zones containing myosin heavy chain were cut from the single-fibre gel tracks and ‘mapped’ [Cleveland, Fischer, Kirschner & Laemmli (1977) J. Biol. Chem. 252, 1102-1106] with Staphylococcus proteinase, it was found that one group always contained fast myosin heavy chain, whereas the second group always contained the slow form. Moreover, a relatively fast-migrating alpha-tropomyosin was associated with the fast myosin group and a slow-migrating form with the slow myosin group. All fibres also contained beta-tropomyosin; the coexistence of alpha- and beta-tropomyosin is at variance with evidence that alpha-tropomyosin is restricted to fast fibres [Dhoot & Perry (1979) Nature (London) 278, 714-718]. Fast fibres containing the expected fast light chains and troponins I and C fast were identified in the three ra muscles, but in only four sm muscles. In three other sm muscles, all the fast fibres contained two troponins I and an additional myosin light chain that was more typical of myosin light chain 1 slow. The remaining sm muscle contained a fast fibre type that was similar to the first type, except that its myosin light chain 1 was more typical of the slow polymorph. Troponin T was bimorphic in all fast fibres from a ra muscles and in at least some fast fibres from one sm muscle. Peptide ‘mapping’ revealed two forms of fast myosin heavy chain distributed among fast fibres. Each form was associated with certain other proteins. Slow myosin heavy chain was unvarying in three slow fibre types identified. Troponin I polymorphs were the principal indicator of slow fibre types. The myofibrillar polymorphs identified presumably contribute to contraction properties, but beyond cud chewing involving ma muscle, nothing is known of the conditions that gave rise to the variable fibre composites in sm and ra muscles.

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