The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and transverse tubular system (TTS) of a fast-twitch muscle (extensor digitorum longus-EDL) and a slow-twitch muscle (soleus-SOL) of the mouse were examined during postnatal development. Muscles of animals newborn to 60 days old were fixed in glutaraldehyde and osmium tetroxide and examined with an electron microscope. At birth the few T tubules were often oriented longitudinally, but at the age of 10 days most of them had a transverse orientation. In the EDL, the estimated volume of the TTS increased from 0.08% at birth to 0.4% in the adult; corresponding values for the SOL were 0.04% at birth and 0.22% in the adult. A similar relative change was observed in surface area of the TTS during development. Calculated on the basis of a 30 µm diameter fiber, the surface area of the TTS in the EDL increased from 0.60 cm2 TTS/cm2 fiber surface in the newborn to 3.1 cm2/cm2 in the adult, compared with 0.15 cm2/cm2 at birth to 1.80 cm2/cm2 in the adult for the SOL. The SR in the newborn muscles occurred as a loose network of tubules that developed rapidly within the subsequent 20 days, especially at the I band level. The volume of the SR increased in the EDL from 1.1% of fiber volume at birth to 5.5% in the adult. In the SOL the change was from 1.7% to 2.9%. The SOL approached the adult values more rapidly than the EDL, although the EDL had more SR and T tubules. Fibers of both EDL and SOL muscles showed variation in Z line thickness, mitochondrial content, and diameter, but over-all differences between the two muscles in amount of SR and TTS were significant. It is considered that the differing amounts of SR and TTS are closely related to the differing speeds of contraction that have been demonstrated for these two muscles.

This content is only available as a PDF.