Muscle contraction in vertebrates


Movements of vertebrates are caused by contraction of skeletal muscles that are attached to the bone by bands of fibrous connective tissue called tendons. A skeletal muscle microscopically shows a specific pattern, and thus, is also called striated muscle. A skeletal muscle is a bundle of long fibers running the length of the muscle. Each fiber is a single cell, and is itself a bundle of smaller myofibrils arranged longitudinally. The myofibrils, in turn, are composed of two kinds of filaments ; thin or actin filaments and thick or myosin filaments. According to the sliding filaments model, neither the thin filaments nor the thick filaments change in length when the muscle contracts ; rather, the filaments move each other longitudinally, so that the degree of overlap of the thin and thick filaments increase.

Contraction of muscle requires energy which is supplied by the breakdown of ATP into ADP and inorganic phosphate. Anaerobic creatine phosphate breakdown and fermentation quickly generate ATP, and sustained exercise requires aerobic respiration.

Stimulation of a single muscle fiber by a motor neuron results in a all-or-none contraction, a twitch. If a second action potential is triggered before the response to the first is over, then the tension will sum to produce a greater response. And if the rate of stimulation is fast enough, then twitchs blur into smooth and sustained contraction called tetanus.

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