Isolating myofibrils from skeletal muscle biopsies and determining contractile function with a nano-newton resolution force transducer

Martijn van de Locht, Josine M. de Winter, Dilson E. Rassier, Michiel H.B. Helmes, Coen A.C. Ottenheijm

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Striated muscle cells are indispensable for the activity of humans and animals. Single muscle fibers are comprised of myofibrils, which consist of serially linked sarcomeres, the smallest contractile units in muscle. Sarcomeric dysfunction contributes to muscle weakness in patients with mutations in genes encoding for sarcomeric proteins. The study of myofibril mechanics allows for the assessment of actin-myosin interactions without potential confounding effects of damaged, adjacent myofibrils when measuring the contractility of single muscle fibers. Ultrastructural damage and misalignment of myofibrils might contribute to impaired contractility. If structural damage is present in the myofibrils, they likely break during the isolation procedure or during the experiment. Furthermore, studies in myofibrils provide the assessment of actin-myosin interactions in the presence of the geometrical constraints of the sarcomeres. For instance, measurements in myofibrils can elucidate whether myofibrillar dysfunction is the primary effect of a mutation in a sarcomeric protein. In addition, perfusion with calcium solutions or compounds is almost instant due to the small diameter of the myofibril. This makes myofibrils eminently suitable to measure the rates of activation and relaxation during force production. The protocol described in this paper employs an optical force probe based on the principle of a Fabry-Pérot interferometer capable of measuring forces in the nano-Newton range, coupled to a piezo length motor and a fast-step perfusion system. This setup enables the study of myofibril mechanics with high resolution force measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61002
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number159
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Biology
  • Calcium
  • Cantilever nano-Newton force probe
  • Contractility
  • Issue 159
  • Myofibril mechanics
  • Sarcomere kinetics
  • Skeletal muscle

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