Structure of Skeletal Muscle

Although skeletal muscle cells come in different shapes and sizes the main structure of a skeletal muscle cell remains the same. If you were to take one whole muscle and cut through it, you would find the muscle is covered in a layer of connective muscle tissue known as the Epimysium.

The Epimysium protects the muscle from friction against other muscles and bones. It also continues at the end of the muscle to form (along with other connective tissues) the muscles tendon. Looking at the cross-section of the muscle you can see bundles of fibres known as Fasciculi, which are surrounded by another connective tissue, called the Perimysium. Each Fasciculi contains anywhere between 10 and 100 muscle fibres, depending on the muscle in question.

A large strong muscle, such as those forming your Quadriceps would have a large number of fibers within each bundle. A smaller muscle used for precision movement, such as those in the hand would contain far fewer fibres per Fasciculi.

Looking at each muscle fiber in detail, you can see they too are covered in a fibrous connective tissue, known as Endomysium which insulates each muscle fiber. Muscle fibers can range from 10 to 80 micrometers in diameter and may be up to 35cm long.

Beneath the Endomysium and surrounding the muscle fibre is the Sarcolemma which is the fibres cell membrane and beneath this is the Sarcoplasm, which is the cell's cytoplasm, a gelatinous fluid which fills most cells.

This contains Glycogen and Fats for energy and also Mitochondria which are the cell's powerhouses, inside which the cell's energy is produced.

Each muscle fibre itself contains cylindrical organelles known as Myofibrils. Each muscle fiber contains hundreds to thousands of Myofibrils. These are bundles of Actin and Myosin proteins which run the length of the muscle fiber and are important in muscle contraction.

Surrounding the Myofibril there is a network of tubules and channels called the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum in which Calcium is stored which is important in muscle contraction. Transverse tubules pass inwards from the Sarcolemma throughout the Myofibril, through which nerve impulses travel.

Each Myofibril can then be broken down into functional repeating segments called Sarcomeres. For more information on Sarcomeres and how muscles contract take a look at sliding filament theory.


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