Continuous stimulation of a rabbit fast muscle at 10 Hz changes its physiological and biochemical parameters to those of a slow muscle. These transformations include the replacement of myosin of one type by myosin of another type. Two hypotheses could explain the cellular basis of these changes. First, if fibers were permanently programmed to be fast or slow, but not both, a change from one muscle type to another would involve atrophy of one fiber type accompanied by de novo appearance of the other type. Alternatively, preexisting muscle fibers could be changing from the expression of one set of genes to the expression of another. Fluorescein-labeled antibodies against fast (AF) and slow (AS) muscle myosins of rabbits have been prepared by procedures originally applied to chicken muscle. In the unstimulated fast peroneus longus muscle, most fibers stained only with AF; a small percentage stained only with AS; and no fibers stained with both antibodies. In stimulated muscles, most fibers stained with both AF and AS; with increasing time of stimulation, there was a progressive decrease in staining intensity with AF and a progressive increase in staining intensity with AS within the same fibers. These results are consistent with a theory that individual preexisting muscle fibers can actually switch from the synthesis of fast myosin to the synthesis of slow myosin.

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