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Validation of a simple, rapid, and economical technique for distinguishing type 1 and 2 fibres in fixed and frozen skeletal muscle
  1. W M H Behan1,
  2. D W Cossar1,
  3. H A Madden1,
  4. I C McKay2
  1. 1Department of Pathology, University of Glasgow, Western Infirmary, Glasgow G11 6NT, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  2. 2Department of Immunology, University of Glasgow
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor W M H Behan, Department of Pathology, Western Infirmary, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G11 6NT, Scotland, UK;


Aims: To produce a method of distinguishing between type 1 and 2 skeletal muscle fibres that would be more economical and reproducible than the standard ATPase method and be applicable to both fixed and frozen tissue. Because the ATPase method has been accepted as the basis for fibre identification for the past 50 years, the new method should not give significantly different results.

Methods: Isoforms of myosin correlate with isoforms of myofibrillar ATPase and an immunohistochemical (IHC) double labelling protocol was devised using monoclonal antibodies to fast and slow myosin. This required one tissue section rather than four. The results of the two methods were compared by means of morphometric analysis of skeletal muscle biopsies from 20 normal healthy volunteers.

Results: There were no significant differences (p = 0.57) in the percentages of type 1 (46% using the IHC method v 48% using ATPase) or type 2 fibres (54% v 52%, respectively). The 2a and 2b subtypes were distinguished easily. Analysis of variance revealed that cross sectional area (μm2), diameter (μm), form factor, and density of fibre staining (a measure of substrate—enzyme or protein) were all similar. The method worked equally well on fixed material.

Conclusion: An IHC method based on the fast and slow isoforms of myosin shows no significant differences in fibre type analysis from the standard ATPase method although it provides important advantages because it is applicable to fixed (including archival) material, is economical and reproducible, and yields a permanent preparation.

  • fast and slow myosin
  • immunohistochemistry
  • myofibrillar ATPase
  • skeletal muscle fibre types
  • IHC, immunohistochemistry
  • NRS, normal rabbit serum
  • TBS, Tris buffered saline

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