A study, mainly by electron microscopy, has been made on two leg muscles of rat, in the course of atrophy experimentally induced by total denervation. As a preliminary the chief distinctive features of the soleus, chosen as a representative of pure red muscle, and of the gastrocnemius, representative of pure white muscle, are described. Two major phases of atrophy, somewhat overlapping in time, were observed. In the first, a degenerative autolytic process takes place in areas of the fiber, with loss of striation. It can be detected as early as the 7th day, but the maximum is observed at the 14th day, and accounts for a gross weight loss of 50 per cent. The first alteration appears in the Z lines; disorder in the disposition of filaments then follows. The process occurs very rapidly, leaving large areas in the cell in which one can detect only ground substance, glycogen, rare randomly disposed vesicular elements, and some mitochondria. Several lysosomes and masses of lipoproteins, which assume the configuration of concentric lamellae, show up in these fibers. Subsequently large parts of the waste sarcoplasm are discarded into the intercellular spaces. In the second major phase the so called "simple" atrophy takes place. The process starts early, but its effects are more detectable after 1 month. In this period, single myofibrils undergo different degrees of reduction in diameter, while the spatial disposition of primary and secondary filaments inside the fibrils remains normal. The appearance of the fibrils in longitudinal sections suggests that the process takes place by the detachment of filaments from the periphery of the fibrils and by their subsequent breakdown in the interfibrillary spaces. The sarcoplasmic reticulum is still well preserved, and relatively overdeveloped. Mitochondria disappear in parallel with the contractile material.

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