Oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle fibres in racehorses: histochemical versus biochemical analysis


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The oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle fibre types was evaluated histochemically using the nicotinamide dinucleotide diaphorase (NADH‐D) staining, and biochemically by measuring the activity of citrate synthase (CS) in both whole muscle samples and in pools of fibres of identified type. Duplicate determinations of the NADH‐D staining pattern resulted in standard deviations (sd) between duplicates of 6 and 11 per cent for two observers. The NADH‐D pattern was found to differ between observers. Duplicate determinations of CS activity in the same fibre pools resulted in an sd value of 2.9 μ mol/g/min. Measurements of whole muscle CS activity did not provide information about the distribution of oxidative capacity among fibre types. The NADH‐D stain and CS activity in fibre pools both showed that, in general, type I and IIA fibres had a higher oxidative capacity than type IIB fibres. Biochemical techniques also showed, however, that the CS activity in type I and IIA fibres of different horses could vary as much as twofold, whereas the NADH‐D rating showed a high intensity staining for most type I and IIA fibres in all horses. Furthermore, type IIB fibres received a lower NADH‐D rating than the other fibre types even when the CS activities were quite similar. For purposes of research, biochemical measurement of oxidative capacity in individual muscle fibre types provides valuable quantitative and comparative information. The ease of histochemical NADH‐D staining in comparison to fibre dissections makes this technique more practical for routine estimates of the distribution of oxidative capacity among muscle fibres. Since racehorses have a high muscle oxidative capacity, NADH‐D stains should be carefully interpreted and comparative evaluations are best made if quantitative biochemical measurements of whole muscle oxidative capacity are added to histochemical evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-295
Number of pages5
JournalEquine veterinary journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1988
Externally publishedYes


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