Optical Diffraction Studies of Muscle Fibers

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A new technique to monitor light diffraction patterns electrically is applied to frog semitendinosus muscle fibers at various levels of stretch. The intensity of the diffraction lines, sarcomere length change, and the length-dispersion (line width) were calculated by fast analogue circuits and displayed in real time. A heliumneon laser (wavelength 6328 Å) was used as a light source. It was found that the intensity of the first-order diffraction line drops significantly (30–50%) at an optimal sarcomere length of 2.8 μm on isometric tetanic stimulation. Such stimulation produced contraction of half-sarcomeres by about 22 nm presumably by stretching inactive elements such as tendons. The dispersion of the sarcomere lengths is extremely small, and it is proportional to the sarcomere length (less than 4%). The dispersion increases on stimulation. These changes on isometric tetanic stimulation were dependent on sarcomere length. No vibration or oscillation in the averaged length of the sarcomeres was found during isometric tetanus within a resolution of 3 nm; however, our observation of increased length dispersion of the sarcomeres together with detection of the averaged shortening of the sarcomere lengths suggests the presence of asynchronous cyclic motions between thick and thin filaments. An alternative explanation is simply an increase of the length dispersion of sarcomeres without cyclic motions. © 1973, The Biophysical Society. All rights reserved.




Kawai, M., & Kuntz, I. D. (1973). Optical Diffraction Studies of Muscle Fibers. Biophysical Journal, 13(9), 857–876. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(73)86031-X

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