Biochemical and structural basis of the passive mechanical properties of whole skeletal muscle

Richard L. Lieber*, Benjamin I. Binder-Markey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Passive mechanical properties of whole skeletal muscle are not as well understood as active mechanical properties. Both the structural basis for passive mechanical properties and the properties themselves are challenging to determine because it is not clear which structures within skeletal muscle actually bear passive loads and there are not established standards by which to make mechanical measurements. Evidence suggests that titin bears the majority of the passive load within the single muscle cell. However, at larger scales, such as fascicles and muscles, there is emerging evidence that the extracellular matrix bears the major part of the load. Complicating the ability to quantify and compare across size scales, muscles and species, definitions of muscle passive properties such as stress, strain, modulus and stiffness can be made relative to many reference parameters. These uncertainties make a full understanding of whole muscle passive mechanical properties and modelling these properties very difficult. Future studies defining the specific load bearing structures and their composition and organization are required to fully understand passive mechanics of the whole muscle and develop therapies to treat disorders in which passive muscle properties are altered such as muscular dystrophy, traumatic laceration, and contracture due to upper motor neuron lesion as seen in spinal cord injury, stroke and cerebral palsy. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3809-3823
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of physiology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2021


  • extracellular matrix
  • muscle fibre bundles
  • muscle mechanics
  • muscle scaling
  • perimysium
  • sarcomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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