The active state describes the force developed in a muscle when the contractile elements are neither lengthening nor shortening. Recently it was suggested that perturbations used to measure the active state also alter the time-course of the active state. The present research was undertaken to assess quantitatively the effect of two such perturbations, isotonic shortening and quick release, on the active state in frog sartorius muscle. Methods were developed which allowed the determination of active state points following periods of controlled isotonic shortening or quick release early in the contraction cycle. All experiments were carried out within the plateau region of the length-tension curve. Both isotonic shortening and quick release altered the active state decay. The active state force decreased as the extent of shortening or release was increased. For each 0.1 mm of isotonic shortening there was a 2% decrease in active state force. Quick release produced a larger decrement. From this data we conclude that the time-course of active state can be measured only in relative terms because it is altered by the motion which takes place in the contractile machine while the active state is being measured. This finding helps to resolve paradoxes in the literature relating to the time-course of the active state, calculated and experimentally determined isometric tetanic myograms, and the heat of shortening.

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