111 12.3 Types of Muscle Tissue

Created by CK-12 Foundation/Adapted by Christine Miller

12.3.1 Eyes
Figure 12.3.1 “Eye” can see you.

Work Those Eye Muscles!

Imagine the man in Figure 12.3.1 turns his eyes in your direction. This is a very small movement, considering the conspicuously large and strong external eye muscles that control eyeball movements. These muscles have been called the strongest muscles in the human body relative to the work they do. However, the external eye muscles actually do a surprising amount of work. Eye movements occur almost constantly during waking hours, especially when we are scanning faces or reading. Eye muscles are also exercised nightly during the phase of sleep called rapid eye movement sleep. External eye muscles can move the eyes because they are made mainly of muscle tissue.

What is Muscle Tissue?

 is a soft tissue that makes up most of the tissues in the muscles of the human muscular system. Other tissues in muscles are connective tissues, such as  that attach  to  and sheaths of  that cover or line muscle tissues. Only muscle tissue per se, has cells with the ability to contract.

There are three major types of muscle tissues in the human body: skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscle tissues. Figure 12.3.2 shows how the three types of muscle tissues appear under magnification. When you read about each type below, you will learn why the three types appear as they do.

12.3 Muscle types
Figure 12.3.2 These magnified images show (a) skeletal muscle tissue, (b) smooth muscle tissue, and (c) cardiac muscle tissue.

Skeletal Muscle Tissue

 is muscle tissue that is attached to bones by , which are bundles of fibres. Whether you are moving your eyes or running a marathon, you are using skeletal muscles. Contractions of skeletal muscles are , or under conscious control of the via the . Skeletal muscle tissue is the most common type of muscle tissue in the human body. By weight, an average adult male is about 42% skeletal muscles, and the average adult female is about 36% skeletal muscles. Some of the major skeletal muscles in the human body are labeled in Figure 12.3.3 below.

12.4.3 Major Skeletal muscles
Figure 12.3.3 Major skeletal muscles of the body. View this image full size here: http://humanbiology.pressbooks.tru.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/06/Anterior_and_Posterior_Views_of_Muscles-scaled.jpg

Skeletal Muscle Pairs

To move bones in opposite directions, skeletal muscles often consist of muscle pairs that work in opposition to one another, also called antagonistic muscle pairs.  For example, when the biceps muscle (on the front of the upper arm) contracts, it can cause the elbow joint to flex or bend the arm, as shown in Figure 12.3.4. When the triceps muscle (on the back of the upper arm) contracts, it can cause the elbow to extend or straighten the arm. The biceps and triceps muscles, also shown in Figure 12.3.4, are an example of a muscle pair where the muscles work in opposition to each other.

12.3 Antagonistic Muscle Pair
Figure 12.3.4 Triceps and biceps muscles in the upper arm are opposing muscles that move the arm at the elbow in opposite directions.

Skeletal Muscle Structure

Each skeletal muscle consists of hundreds — or even thousands — of skeletal muscle fibres, which are long, string-like cells. As shown in Figure 12.3.5 below, skeletal muscle fibres are individually wrapped in connective tissue called . The skeletal muscle fibres are bundled together in units called , which are surrounded by sheaths of connective tissue called . Each fascicle contains between ten and 100 (or even more!) skeletal muscle fibres. Fascicles, in turn, are bundled together to form individual skeletal muscles, which are wrapped in connective tissue called . The connective tissues in skeletal muscles have a variety of functions. They support and protect muscle fibres, allowing them to withstand the forces of contraction by distributing the forces applied to the muscle. They also provide pathways for nerves and blood vessels to reach the muscles. In addition, the epimysium anchors the muscles to tendons.

11.3.5 Muscle Fibers Structure
Figure 12.3.5 Each skeletal muscle has a structure of bundles within bundles. Bundles of muscle fibres make up a muscle fascicle, and bundles of fascicles make up a skeletal muscle. At each level of bundling, a connective tissue membrane surrounds the bundle.

The same bundles-within-bundles structure is replicated within each muscle fibre. As shown in Figure 12.3.6, a muscle fibre consists of a bundle of , which are themselves bundles of protein filaments. These protein filaments consist of thin filaments of the protein , which are anchored to structures called Z discs, and thick filaments of the protein . The filaments are arranged together within a myofibril in repeating units called , which run from one Z disc to the next. The sarcomere is the basic functional unit of skeletal and cardiac muscles. It contracts as actin and myosin filaments slide over one another. Skeletal muscle tissue is said to be striated, because it appears striped. It has this appearance because of the regular, alternating A (dark) and I (light) bands of filaments arranged in sarcomeres inside the muscle fibres. Other components of a skeletal muscle fibre include multiple nuclei and mitochondria.

11.3 Sarcomere
Figure 12.3.6 Bundles of protein filaments form a myofibril, and bundles of myofibrils make up a single muscle fibre. I and A bands refer to the positioning of myosin and actin fibres in a myofibril. Sarcoplasmic reticulum is a specialized type of endoplasmic reticulum that forms a network around each myofibril. It serves as a reservoir for calcium ions, which are needed for muscle contractions. H zones and Z discs are also involved in muscle contractions, which you can read about in the concept Muscle Contraction.

Slow- and Fast-Twitch Skeletal Muscle Fibres

Skeletal muscle fibres can be divided into two types, called slow-twitch (or type I) muscle fibres and fast-twitch (or type II) muscle fibres.

  • are dense with capillaries and rich in and myoglobin, which is a protein that stores oxygen until needed for muscle activity. Relative to fast-twitch fibres, slow-twitch fibres can carry more oxygen and sustain aerobic (oxygen-using) activity. Slow-twitch fibres can contract for long periods of time, but not with very much force. They are relied upon primarily in endurance events, such as distance running or cycling.
  • contain fewer capillaries and mitochondria and less myoglobin. This type of muscle fibre can contract rapidly and powerfully, but it fatigues very quickly. Fast-twitch fibres can sustain only short, anaerobic (non-oxygen-using) bursts of activity. Relative to slow-twitch fibres, fast-twitch fibres contribute more to muscle strength and have a greater potential for increasing in mass. They are relied upon primarily in short, strenuous events, such as sprinting or weightlifting.

Proportions of fibre types vary considerably from muscle to muscle and from person to person. Individuals may be genetically predisposed to have a larger percentage of one type of muscle fibre than the other. Generally, an individual who has more slow-twitch fibres is better suited for activities requiring endurance, whereas an individual who has more fast-twitch fibres is better suited for activities requiring short bursts of power.

Smooth Muscle

 is muscle tissue in the walls of internal organs and other internal structures such as blood vessels. When smooth muscles contract, they help the organs and vessels carry out their functions. When smooth muscles in the stomach wall contract, for example, they squeeze the food inside the stomach, helping to mix and churn the food and break it into smaller pieces. This is an important part of digestion. Contractions of smooth muscles are , so they are not under conscious control. Instead, they are controlled by the , , , and other physiological factors.

Structure of Smooth Muscle

The cells that make up smooth muscle are generally called . Unlike the muscle fibres of striated muscle tissue, the myocytes of smooth muscle tissue do not have their filaments arranged in . Therefore, smooth tissue is not striated. However, the myocytes of smooth muscle do contain , which in turn contain bundles of and filaments. The filaments cause contractions when they slide over each other, as shown in Figure 12.3.7.

11.3.7 Smooth Muscle Contraction
Figure 12.3.7 The basic mechanism of muscle contraction in smooth muscle is the same as that in other types of muscle tissue.

Functions of Smooth Muscle

Unlike striated muscle, smooth muscle can sustain very long-term contractions. Smooth muscle can also stretch and still maintain its contractile function, which striated muscle cannot. The elasticity of smooth muscle is enhanced by an extracellular matrix secreted by myocytes. The matrix consists of , , and other stretchy fibres. The ability to stretch and still contract is an important attribute of smooth muscle in organs such as the stomach and uterus (see Figures 12.3.8 and 12.3.9), both of which must stretch considerably as they perform their normal functions.

11.3.8 Uterus Smooth Muscle
Figure 12.3.8 The muscular uterine wall stretches to a great extent to accommodate a growing fetus, yet it can still contract with great force during the labour that precedes childbirth. At that time, it can exert up to 100 pounds of force.
12.3.9 Growing uterus.
Figure 12.3.9 The uterus will continue to expand further into the abdominal cavity as pregnancy progresses.

The following list indicates where many smooth muscles are found, along with some of their specific functions.

  • Walls of organs of the gastrointestinal tract (such as the esophagus, stomach, and intestines), moving food through the tract by
  • Walls of air passages of the respiratory tract (such as the bronchi), controlling the diameter of the passages and the volume of air that can pass through them
  • Walls of organs of the male and female reproductive tracts; in the uterus, for example, pushing a baby out of the uterus and into the birth canal
  • Walls of structures of the urinary system, including the urinary bladder, allowing the bladder to expand so it can hold more urine, and then contract as urine is released
  • Walls of blood vessels, controlling the diameter of the vessels and thereby affecting blood flow and blood pressure
  • Walls of lymphatic vessels, squeezing the fluid called lymph through the vessels
  • Iris of the eyes, controlling the size of the pupils and thereby the amount of light entering the eyes
  • Arrector pili in the skin, raising hairs in hair follicles in the dermis

Cardiac Muscle

11.3 Cardiac Muscle
Figure 12.3.10 The thick wall of the heart consists mainly of cardiac muscle tissue called myocardium.

is found only in the wall of the heart. It is also called . As shown in Figure 12.3.10, myocardium is enclosed within connective tissues, including the on the inside of the heart and on the outside of the heart. When cardiac muscle contracts, the heart beats and pumps blood. Contractions of cardiac muscle are involuntary, like those of smooth muscles. They are controlled by electrical impulses from specialized cardiac muscle cells in an area of the heart muscle called the .

Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated because its filaments are arranged in inside the muscle fibres. However, in cardiac muscle, the are branched at irregular angles rather than arranged in parallel rows (as they are in skeletal muscle). This explains why cardiac and skeletal muscle tissues look different from one another.

The cells of cardiac muscle tissue are arranged in interconnected networks. This arrangement allows rapid transmission of electrical impulses, which stimulate virtually simultaneous contractions of the cells. This enables the cells to coordinate contractions of the heart muscle.

The heart is the muscle that performs the greatest amount of physical work in the course of a lifetime. Although the power output of the heart is much less than the maximum power output of some other muscles in the human body, the heart does its work continuously over an entire lifetime without rest. Cardiac muscle contains a great many , which produce for energy and help the heart resist fatigue.

Feature: Human Biology in the News

12.3 Types of Cardiomyopathy
Figure 12.3.11 Cardiomyopathy results in decreased ability of the heart to circulate blood properly through the body. There are several types of cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease in which the muscles of the heart are no longer able to effectively pump blood to the body — extreme forms of this disease can lead to heart failure.  There are four main types of cardiomyopathy (also illustrated in Figure 12.3.11):

  • Dilated (congestive) cardiomyopathy: the left ventricle (the chamber itself) of the heart becomes enlarged and can’t pump blood our to the body.  This is normally related to coronary artery disease and/or heart attack
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: abnormal thickening of the muscular walls of the left ventricle make the chamber less able to work properly.  This condition is more common in patients with a family history of the disease.
  • Restrictive cardiomyopathy: the myocardium becomes abnormally rigid and inelastic and is unable to expand in between heartbeats to refill with blood.  Restrictive cardiomyopathy typically affects older people.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy: the right ventricular muscle is replaced by adipose or scar tissue, reducing elasticity and interfering with normal heartbeat and rhythm.  This disease is often caused by genetic mutations.

Cardiomyopathy is typically diagnosed with a physical exam supplemented by medical and family history, an angiogram, blood tests, chest x-rays and electrocardiograms.  In some cases your doctor would also requisition a CT scan and/or genetic testing.

When treating cardiomyopathy, the goal is to reduce symptoms that affect everyday life.  Certain medications can help regularize and slow heart rate, decrease chances of blood clots and cause vasodilation in the coronary arteries.  If medication is not sufficient to manage symptoms, a pacemaker or even a heart transplant may be the best option.  Lifestyle can also help manage the symptoms of cardiomyopathy — people living with this disease are encouraged to avoid drug and alcohol use, control high blood pressure, eat a healthy diet, get ample rest and exercise, as well as reduce stress levels.

12.3 Summary

  • is a soft tissue that makes up most of the tissues in the muscles of the human muscular system. It is the only type of tissue that has cells with the ability to contract.
  • tissue is attached to bones by tendons. It allows body movements.
  • Skeletal muscle is the most common type of muscle tissue in the human body. To move  in opposite directions, skeletal muscles often consist of pairs of muscles that work in opposition to one another to move bones in different directions at .
  • Skeletal muscle fibres are bundled together in units called , which are bundled together to form individual skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles also have connective tissue supporting and protecting the muscle tissue.
  • Each skeletal muscle fibre consists of a bundle of , which are bundles of protein filaments. The filaments are arranged in repeating units called , which are the basic functional units of skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscle tissue is striated because of the pattern of sarcomeres in its fibres.
  • Skeletal muscle fibres can be divided into two types, called and . Slow-twitch fibres are used mainly in aerobic endurance activities, such as long-distance running. Fast-twitch fibres are used mainly for non-aerobic, strenuous activities, such as sprinting. Proportions of the two types of fibres vary from muscle to muscle and person to person.
  • tissue is found in the walls of internal organs and vessels. When smooth muscles contract, they help the organs and vessels carry out their functions. Contractions of smooth muscles are and controlled by the , , and other substances.
  • Cells of smooth muscle tissue are not striated because they lack sarcomeres, but the cells contract in the same basic way as striated muscle cells. Unlike striated muscle, smooth muscle can sustain very long-term contractions and maintain its contractile function, even when stretched.
  • tissue is found only in the wall of the heart. When cardiac muscle contracts, the heart beats and pumps blood. Contractions of cardiac muscle are involuntary, like those of smooth muscles. They are controlled by electrical impulses from specialized cardiac cells.
  • Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated because its filaments are arranged in sarcomeres inside the muscle fibres. However, the myofibrils are branched instead of arranged in parallel rows, making cardiac and skeletal muscle tissues look different from one another.
  • The heart is the muscle that performs the greatest amount of physical work in the course of a lifetime. Its cells contain a great many to produce for energy and help the heart resist fatigue.

12.3 Review Questions

  1. What is muscle tissue?
  2. Where is skeletal muscle found, and what is its general function?
  3. Why do many skeletal muscles work in pairs?
  4. Describe the structure of a skeletal muscle.
  5. Relate muscle fibre structure to the functional units of muscles.
  6. Why is skeletal muscle tissue striated?
  7. Where is smooth muscle found? What controls the contraction of smooth muscle?
  8. Where is cardiac muscle found? What controls its contractions?
  9. The heart muscle is smaller and less powerful than some other muscles in the body. Why is the heart the muscle that performs the greatest amount of physical work in the course of a lifetime? How does the heart resist fatigue?
  10. Give one example of connective tissue that is found in muscles. Describe one of its functions.

12.3 Explore More

What happens during a heart attack? – Krishna Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2017.

Three types of muscle | Circulatory system physiology | NCLEX-RN | KhanAcademyMedicine, 2012.

 

Attributions

Figure 12.3.1

Look by ali-yahya-155huuQwGvA [photo] by Ali Yahya on Unsplash is used under the Unsplash License (https://unsplash.com/license).

Figure 12.3.2

Skeletal_Smooth_Cardiac by OpenStax College on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) license.

Figure 12.3.3

Anterior_and_Posterior_Views_of_Muscles by OpenStax on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) license.

Figure 12.3.4

Antagonistic Muscle Pair by Laura Guerin at CK-12 Foundation on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY-NC 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) license. 

©CK-12 Foundation Licensed under CK-12 Foundation is licensed under Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) • Terms of Use • Attribution

Figure 12.3.5

Muscle_Fibes_(large) by OpenStax on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) license.

Figure 12.3.6

Muscle_Fibers_(small) by OpenStax on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) license.

Figure 12.3.7

Smooth_Muscle_Contraction by OpenStax on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) license.

Figure 12.3.8

Blausen_0747_Pregnancy by BruceBlaus on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) license.

Figure 12.3.9

Size_of_Uterus_Throughout_Pregnancy-02 by OpenStax College on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) license.

Figure 12.3.10

1024px-Blausen_0470_HeartWall by BruceBlaus on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) license.

Figure 12.3.11

Tipet_e_kardiomiopative by Npatchett at English Wikipedia on Wikimedia Commons is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) license. (Work derived from Blausen 0165 Cardiomyopathy Dilated by BruceBlaus)

References

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2013, June 19). Figure 4.18 Muscle tissue [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 4.4). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/4-4-muscle-tissue-and-motion

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2013, June 19). Figure 28.18 Size of uterus throughout pregnancy [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 28.4). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/28-4-maternal-changes-during-pregnancy-labor-and-birth

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2016, May 18). Figure 10.3 The three connective tissue layers [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 10.2). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/10-2-skeletal-muscle

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2016, May 18). Figure 10.4 Muscle fiber [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 10.2). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/10-2-skeletal-muscle

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2016, May 18). Figure 10.24 Muscle contraction [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 10.8). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/10-8-smooth-muscle

Betts, J. G., Young, K.A., Wise, J.A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D.H., Korol, O., Johnson, J.E., Womble, M., DeSaix, P. (2016, May 18). Figure 11.5 Overview of the muscular system [digital image].  In Anatomy and Physiology (Section 11.2). OpenStax. https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology/pages/11-2-naming-skeletal-muscles

Blausen.com staff. (2014). Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436.

Brainard, J/ CK-12 Foundation. (2012). Figure 5 Triceps and biceps muscles in the upper arm are opposing muscles. [digital image]. In CK-12 Biology (Section 21.3) [online Flexbook]. CK12.org. https://www.ck12.org/book/ck-12-biology/section/21.3/ (Last modified August 11, 2017.)

khanacademymedicine. (2012, October 19). Three types of muscle | Circulatory system physiology | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy. YouTube.

TED-Ed. (2017, February 14).  What happens during a heart attack? – Krishna Sudhir. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_PYnWVoUzM&feature=youtu.be

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Human Biology by Christine Miller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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