Loading of extracted muscle fibers causes a small, sudden lengthening, followed by a slower, plastic extension, which is reversed only by active contraction. Polyphosphates in the presence of Mg strongly accelerate plastic extension, but elastic changes in length remain the same as during rigor. The modulus of elasticity on the average is about 6.2 x 107 dynes per cm.2 This value is about 40 times larger than that of rubber, if compared on a water-free basis. Extension of muscle, therefore, is almost entirely due to plastic deformation.
Mg is essential for the softening action of adenosinetriphosphate (ATP) and can produce partial relaxation in the absence of a relaxation factor. After partial removal of bound Mg, ATP causes strong contraction, but only slight softening. The same condition is produced by very low concentrations of ATP in the presence of phosphocreatine. These observations show that during contraction passive mechanical properties may remain essentially like those during rigor. The constancy of elastic extensibility distinguishes contraction produced by ATP from contraction induced by non-specific agents in various fibrous structures and caused by an increase in configurational entropy.