In this study the polymorphism of myofibrillar proteins and the Ca2+-uptake activity of sarcoplasmic reticulum were analysed in single fibres from human skeletal muscles. Two populations of histochemically identified type-I fibres were found differing in the number of light-chain isoforms of the constituent myosin, whereas the pattern of light chains of fast myosin of type-IIA and type-IIB fibres was indistinguishable. Regulatory proteins, troponin and tropomyosin, and other myofibrillar proteins, such as M- and C-proteins, showed specific isoforms in type-I and type-II fibres. Furthermore, tropomyosin presented different stoichiometries of the alpha- and beta-subunits between the two types of fibres. Sarcoplasmic-reticulum volume, as indicated by the maximum capacity for calcium oxalate accumulation, was almost identical in type-I and type-II fibres, whereas the rate of Ca2+ transport was twice as high in type-II as compared with type-I fibres. It is concluded that, in normal human muscle fibres, there is a tight segregation of fast and slow isoforms of myofibrillar proteins that is very well co-ordinated with the relaxing activity of the sarcoplasmic reticulum. These findings may thus represent a molecular correlation with the differences of the twitch-contraction time between fast and slow human motor units. This tight segregation is partially lost in the muscle fibres of elderly individuals.

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