Open Access Open Badges Research article

A comprehensive characterisation of the fibre composition and properties of a limb (Flexor digitorum superficialis, membri thoraci) and a trunk (Psoas major) muscle in cattle

Natalia Moreno-Sánchez1, Clara Díaz1, María J Carabaño1, Julia Rueda2* and José-Luis L Rivero3

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Mejora Genética Animal, INIA (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria), Ctra. A Coruña km 7.2, 28040 Madrid, Spain

2 Departamento de Genética, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, José Antonio Novais 2, 28040 Madrid, Spain

3 Laboratorio de Biopatología Muscular, Departamento de Anatomía y Anatomía Patológica Comparadas, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Córdoba, Ctra. Madrid-Cádiz km 396, 14071 Córdoba, Spain

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BMC Cell Biology 2008, 9:67  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-9-67

Published: 15 December 2008



The fibre type attributes and the relationships among their properties play an important role in the differences in muscle capabilities and features. Comprehensive characterisation of the skeletal muscles should study the degree of association between them and their involvement in muscle functionality. The purposes of the present study were to characterise the fibre type composition of a trunk (Psoas major, PM) and a limb (Flexor digitorum, membri thoraci, FD) muscle in the bovine species and to study the degree of coordination among contractile, metabolic and histological properties of fibre types. Immunohistochemical, histochemical and histological techniques were used.


The fibre type composition was delineated immunohistochemically in calf muscle samples, identifying three pure (I, IIA, and IIX) and two hybrid type fibres (I+IIA, and IIAX). Most of the fibres in FD were types I and IIA, while pure IIX were absent. All fibre types were found in PM, the IIX type being the most frequent. Compared to other species, small populations of hybrid fibres were detected. The five fibre types, previously identified, were ascribed to three different acid and alkaline mATPase activity patterns. Type I fibres had the highest oxidative capacity and the lowest glycolytic capacity. The reverse was true for the IIX fibres, whereas the type IIA fibres showed intermediate properties. Regarding the histological properties, type I fibres tended to be more capillarised than the II types. Correlations among contractile, metabolic and histological features on individual fibres were significantly different from zero (r values varied between -0.31 and 0.78). Hybrid fibre values were positioned between their corresponding pure types, and their positions were different regarding their metabolic and contractile properties.


Coordination among the contractile, metabolic and histological properties of fibres has been observed. However, the magnitude of the correlation among them is always below 0.8, suggesting that the properties of muscles are not fully explained by the fibre composition. These results support the concept that, to some extent, muscle plasticity can be explained by the fibre type composition, and by the properties derived from their metabolic and histological profiles.