The functional roles of the lateral gastrocnemius (LG), medial gastrocnemius (MG) and superficial digital flexor (SDF) muscle-tendon units (MTUs) in domestic goats (N=6) were studied as a function of locomotor grade, testing the hypothesis that changes in distal limb muscle work would reflect changes in mechanical work requirements while goats walked or trotted on the level, 15 deg. decline and 15 deg. incline. As steep terrain-adapted animals, changes in muscle work output are expected to be particularly important for goats. In vivo muscle-tendon forces, fascicle length changes and muscle activation were recorded via tendon force buckles, sonomicrometry and electromyography to evaluate the work performance and elastic energy recovery of the three distal MTUs. These recordings confirmed that fascicle strain and force within goat distal hind limb muscles are adjusted in response to changes in mechanical work demand associated with locomotor grade. In general, muscle work was modulated most consistently by changes in fascicle strain, with increased net shortening (P<0.001) observed as goats switched from decline to level to incline locomotion. Peak muscle stresses increased as goats increased speed from a walk to a trot within each grade condition (P<0.05), and also increased significantly with grade (P<0.05 to P<0.01). Due to the increase in net fascicle shortening and muscle force, net muscle work per cycle also increased significantly (P<0.05 to P<0.005) as goats switched from decline to level to incline conditions (LG work: 20 mJ to 56 mJ to 209 mJ; MG work: -7 mJ to 34 mJ to 179 mJ; SDF work: -42 mJ to 14 mJ to 71 mJ, at a 2.5 ms(-1) trot). Although muscle work was modulated in response to changes in grade, the amount of work produced by these three distal pennate muscles was small (being <3%) in comparison with the change in mechanical energy required of the limb as a whole. Elastic energy recovery in the SDF and gastrocnemius (GA) tendons was substantial across all three grades, with the SDF tendon recovering 2.4 times more energy, on average, than the GA tendon. In parallel with the increase in muscle-tendon force, tendon energy recovery also increased as goats increased speed and changed gait, reaching the highest levels when goats trotted on an incline at 2.5 ms(-1) (GA: 173 mJ; SDF: 316 mJ). In general, tendon elastic energy exceeded net muscle work across all grade and gait conditions. These results demonstrate, for the first time in a quadruped, similar findings to those observed in ankle extensor muscles in humans, wallabies, turkeys and guinea fowl, suggesting that distal muscle-tendon architecture more generally favors a design for economic force production and tendon elastic energy recovery, with the majority of limb work during incline or decline running performed by larger proximal muscles.
McGuigan, M PollyYoo, EdwinLee, David VBiewener, Andrew AengR01 AR47679/AR/NIAMS NIH HHS/Research Support, N.I.H., ExtramuralEngland2009/06/16 09:00J Exp Biol. 2009 Jul;212(Pt 13):2092-104. doi: 10.1242/jeb.028076.