What is a Sarcomere?


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Source: OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

What is a Sarcomere? (OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology

The striated appearance of skeletal muscle fibers is due to the arrangement of the myofilaments of actin and myosin in sequential order from one end of the muscle fiber to the other. Each packet of these microfilaments and their regulatory proteins, troponin and tropomyosin (along with other proteins) is called a sarcomere.

The sarcomere is the functional unit of the muscle fiber. The sarcomere itself is bundled within the myofibril that runs the entire length of the muscle fiber and attaches to the sarcolemma at its end. As myofibrils contract, the entire muscle cell contracts. Because myofibrils are only approximately 1.2 μm in diameter, hundreds to thousands (each with thousands of sarcomeres) can be found inside one muscle fiber. Each sarcomere is approximately 2 μm in length with a three-dimensional cylinder-like arrangement and is bordered by structures called Z-discs (also called Z-lines, because pictures are two-dimensional), to which the actin myofilaments are anchored (Figure 10.5). Because the actin and its troponintropomyosin complex (projecting from the Z-discs toward the center of the sarcomere) form strands that are thinner than the myosin, it is called the thin filament of the sarcomere. Likewise, because the myosin strands and their multiple heads (projecting from the center of the sarcomere, toward but not all to way to, the Z-discs) have more mass and are thicker, they are called the thick filament of the sarcomere.


Betts, J. G., Young, K. A., Wise, J. A., Johnson, E., Poe, B., Kruse, D. H., … DeSaix, P. (n.d.). Anatomy and Physiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/anatomy-and-physiology


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The Sliding Filament Theory of Muscle Contraction

The Length-Tension Range of a Sarcomere

OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology When a skeletal muscle fiber contracts, myosin heads attach to actin to form cross-bridges followed by the thin filaments sliding over the thick filaments as the heads pull the actin, and this results in sarcomere shortening, creating the tension of the muscle contraction. The cross-bridges can only form where thin and … Continue reading

Research Article: Sarcomere Formation Occurs by the Assembly of Multiple Latent Protein Complexes

Date Published: November 18, 2010 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Yanning Rui, Jianwu Bai, Norbert Perrimon, Gregory S. Barsh Abstract: The stereotyped striation of myofibrils is a conserved feature of muscle organization that is critical to its function. Although most components that constitute the basic myofibrils are well-characterized biochemically and are conserved across the … Continue reading