The filament lattice of striated muscle is an overlapping hexagonal array of thick and thin filaments within which muscle contraction takes place. Its structure can be studied by electron microscopy or X-ray diffraction. With the latter technique, structural changes can be monitored during contraction and other physiological conditions. The lattice of intact muscle fibers can change size through osmotic swelling or shrinking or by changing the sarcomere length of the muscle. Similarly, muscle fibers that have been chemically or mechanically skinned can be compressed with bathing solutions containing very large inert polymeric molecules. The effects of lattice change on muscle contraction in vertebrate skeletal and cardiac muscle and in invertebrate striated muscle are reviewed. The force developed, the speed of shortening, and stiffness are compared with structural changes occurring within the lattice. Radial forces between the filaments in the lattice, which can include electrostatic, Van der Waals, entropic, structural, and cross bridge, are assessed for their contributions to lattice stability and to the contraction process.
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