Role of alpha-actinin-3 in contractile properties of human single muscle fibers: a case series study in paraplegics.
- Sports Medicine Research Laboratory
A common nonsense polymorphism in the ACTN3 gene results in the absence of alpha-actinin-3 in XX individuals. The wild type allele has been associated with power athlete status and an increased force output in numeral studies, though the mechanisms by which these effects occur are unclear. Recent findings in the Actn3(-/-) (KO) mouse suggest a shift towards 'slow' metabolic and contractile characteristics of fast muscle fibers lacking alpha-actinin-3. Skinned single fibers from the quadriceps muscle of three men with spinal cord injury (SCI) were tested regarding peak force, unloaded shortening velocity, force-velocity relationship, passive tension and calcium sensitivity. The SCI condition induces an 'equal environment condition' what makes these subjects ideal to study the role of alpha-actinin-3 on fiber type expression and single muscle fiber contractile properties. Genotyping for ACTN3 revealed that the three subjects were XX, RX and RR carriers, respectively. The XX carrier's biopsy was the only one that presented type I fibers with a complete lack of type II(x) fibers. Properties of hybrid type II(a)/II(x) fibers were compared between the three subjects. Absence of alpha-actinin-3 resulted in less stiff type II(a)/II(x) fibers. The heterozygote (RX) exhibited the highest fiber diameter (0.121+/-0.005 mm) and CSA (0.012+/-0.001 mm(2)) and, as a consequence, the highest peak force (2.11+/-0.14 mN). Normalized peak force was similar in all three subjects (P = 0.75). Unloaded shortening velocity was highest in R-allele carriers (P<0.001). No difference was found in calcium sensitivity. The preservation of type I fibers and the absence of type II(x) fibers in the XX individual indicate a restricted transformation of the muscle fiber composition to type II fibers in response to long-term muscle disuse. Lack of alpha-actinin-3 may decrease unloaded shortening velocity and increase fiber elasticity.