A new method for the isolation of large numbers of individual myofibrils from fresh mammalian skeletal and cardiac muscle has been described. Purification of isolated myofibrils was accomplished by differential centrifugation of fresh frozen sections of muscle which had been mechanically agitated after exposure for 30 to 45 minutes at 0°C. to the action of a dilute solution of trypsin in a phosphate buffer solution with a pH of 7.0 and an ionic strength of 0.25.
Isolated skeletal myofibrils of the rabbit and man have similar constant solubility properties. They dissolve in an aqueous mixture of 0.5 N potassium chloride and 0.03 N sodium bicarbonate, giving viscous solutions which exhibit conspicuous birefringence of flow. They are soluble in buffer solutions (ionic strength 0.15) on the acid side of pH 4 and alkaline side of pH 10. If the ionic strength of potassium phosphate buffer solutions is increased to 0.5 or if the ionic strength of phosphate-borate buffer solutions is increased to a similar value by addition of potassium chloride, the isolated myofibrils become soluble at neutrality. Hence, it is possible, first to isolate the myofibrils and then dissolve them without deviating appreciably from physiologic ranges of pH.
The extent to which myofibrils are modified by the conditions imposed by the method of isolation is unknown. There is no significant change in microscopic structure or optical birefringence. Furthermore, there is retention of a form of physiological reactivity, for when the isolated skeletal myofibrils are immersed in solutions of adenosinetriphosphate, they promptly and irreversibly change from elongated fibrils with distinct structural detail into dense spherical masses without recognizable microscopic structure.