Contractures develop in sheep atrial trabeculae if Tyrode's solution is rapidly replaced by a solution containing elevated potassium, reduced sodium, or both. Two phases of the contracture can be identified on the basis of differences in physiological behavior: a rapid and transient phase that predominates during the first few seconds of the contracture, and a slowly developed phase that is responsible for the steady level of tension reached later in the contracture. The transient phase is particularly prominent if the muscle is stimulated rapidly before the contracture, and reduced or absent if the muscle is not stimulated or if calcium is not present before the contracture. Recovery of the transient phase after a contracture parallels the recovery of twitches. This transient phase appears to reflect the depolarization-induced release of activator (calcium) from an internal store, possibly the same store that is involved in the normal contraction. The slowly developed tension is dependent on the contracture solution used, and is decreased if the calcium concentration is reduced or if the sodium concentration is increased. It does not depend on conditions before the contracture and does not require time to recover. This phase of the contracture may be due to entry of calcium from the extracellular solution.

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