Increasing use of barnacle giant muscle fibers for physiological research has prompted this investigation of their fine structure. The fibers are invaginated by a multibranched system of clefts connecting to the exterior and filled with material similar to that of the basement material of the sarcolemmal complex. Tubules originate from the surface plasma membrane at irregular sites, and also from the clefts They run transversely, spirally, and longitudinally, making many diadic and some triadic contacts with cisternal sacs of the longitudinal sarcoplasmic reticulum. The contacts are not confined to any particular region of the sarcomere. The tubules are wider and their walls are thicker at points of contact with Z material. Some linking of the Z regions occurs across spaces within the fiber which contain large numbers of glycogen particles. A-band lengths are extremely variable, in the range 2.2 µm–20.3 µm (average 5.2 µm) Individual thick filaments have thin (110 Å) hollow regions alternating with thick (340 Å) solid ones. Bridges between thick filaments occur at random points and are not concentrated into an M band The thin:thick filament ratio is variable in different parts of a fiber, from 3:1 to 6:1. Z bands are basically perforated, but the number of perforations may increase during contraction.
The phenomenon of contraction of a striated muscle down to below 50 per cent rest length has been examined for the scutal depressor of the barnacle Balanus nubilus by a combination of phase contrast and electron microscopy. It was found that neurally evoked contraction down to 60 per cent rest length results from the shortening of the I band. At the same time the Z disc changes in structure by an active process which results in spaces opening up within it. Thick filaments can now pass through these spaces from adjacent sarcomeres, interdigitating across the discs. Interdigitation permits repetitive contraction in the living muscle to below 30 per cent rest length. In non-neurally evoked contractions most thick filaments do not find spaces in the Z disc and bend back, giving rise to contraction band artifacts. Expansion of the Z disc can be produced in glycerinated material by the addition of solutions containing a high concentration of ATP.