Loyola University Medical Education Network Part 7: Muscle

The cells of muscular tissue lie parallel to each other and, therefore, can be cut in either cross or longitudinal section and have to be distinguished from each other in both planes. They must also be distinguished from cuts of nerve and tendon. Watch for diagnostic features as you go along through these slides.

Longitudinal sections:

Slide 41

Smooth muscle - long, slender central nuclei, lying within narrow, fusiform cells that lie parallel to each other in a smooth arrangement. (Muscle cells are often referred to as muscle fibers because of their narrowness and length.)

Slide 42

Smooth muscle - with cells more separated so as to see their extent and shape better, and the central position of their nuclei. A loose, irregular connective tissue (endomysium) lies between the cells. Nuclei seen in this c.t. belong to fibroblasts mainly.

Slide 43

Smooth muscle with wrinkled nuclei due to contraction of cells.

Slide 44

EM of smooth muscle showing typical "hairy" look of primarily filaments in the cytoplasm. Part of the cytoplasm is clear of filaments and shows mitochondria and polyribosomes. The cell membrane is at the lower right of the field and shows a few pinocytotic vesicles toward the extreme right. The left-hand extent of that same membrane seems darker and denser: probably a plaque, where filaments attach. The fuzzy density just outside the cell membrane is the basal lamina.

Slide 45

Skeletal muscle cells (fibers), with cross-striations and peripheral nuclei.

Slide 46

Higher power of skeletal muscle for details of cross-striations. Notice thin Z discs and heavy A bands. From one Z disc to the next is a sarcomere, the unit of muscle contraction. In the upper muscle cell notice shadowy myofibrils running longitudinally.

Slide 47

EM of several myofibrils running longitudinally through skeletal muscle cell. Between individual myofibrils lie the mitochondria (M) and glycogen (G) of the cytoplasm. Within each myofibril are the typical striations: A= A band; I= I band; Z= Z line; and H= H band. The banding is formed by the arrangement of myosin and actin filaments.

Slide 48

Cardiac muscle with cross-striations, dark intercalated discs, and centrally located nuclei. Notice too that the nuclei are stubby in appearance, and that they lie in a rather granular cytoplasm. Some of the intercalated discs form a straight line across muscle fibers; others make a step-like arrangement.

Slide 49

EM of intercalated disc between the ends of two cardiac muscle cells. Both desmosomes (1) and fasciae adheretes (2) are identified. Notice mitochondria and glycogen particles lying between myofibrils.

Slide 50

Another view of cardiac muscle showing wavy connective tissue (endomysium) between muscle cells. Also, notice capillaries with r.b.c.'s; muscle is a highly vascularized tissue. Some yellow granular cytoplasm can be seen inside the lower muscle cells, where myofibrils are parted. This picture also gives some indication of the branching of cardiac fibers.

Slide 51

This is a longitudinal section of peripheral nerve, for comparison with the three types of muscle. The foamy, pale look is due to the dissolving out of lipids from the myelin sheath. Note also the rounded constrictions of nodes of Ranvier.

Slide 52

Another comparison, this time with tendon (dense, regular, collagenous c.t.). Here you see very thin fibroblast nuclei compressed between collagen fibers and lined up in rows ("box-car").

Slide 53

Dense, fairly regular, collagenous tissue with mostly fibers and very few cells. Not as neatly arranged as the previous tissues.


Slide 54

Smooth muscle. Since the muscle cells are spindle-shaped, with tapered ends, the diameters of cross-cuts of individual cells vary considerably. Nuclei are central but appear only when the section goes through the widest part of the cell. Compare diameters of these cells with those in the next two slides, which are at the same magnification.

Slide 55

Cardiac muscle, with central nuclei surrounded by proportionally greater amounts of cytoplasm than previous smooth muscle. The "graininess" of the cytoplasm is due to cut ends of myofibrils. Remember that a very fine connective tissue endomysium lies between the individual muscle cells in all three types of muscle; often it is not well preserved because it collapses during fixation.

Slide 56

Skeletal muscle -- large, rounded cross-cuts of muscle cells, packed so full of myofibrils that nuclei are displaced to the periphery. (There is a capillary filled with pink rbc's in the upper middle field.)

Slide 57

A cross-cut of nerve for comparison. The pale central axons are surrounded by myelin sheaths that seem to have radiating lines in them due to the way the protein component of the sheath is preserved. All nuclei lie between nerve processes rather than in them.

Slide 58

A cross-cut of tendon to show fibroblasts compressed between thick pale collagenous fibers that they look stellate in shape. The cells look as if they are lying in "cracks" between the fibers; notice this on the right side of field particularly.

Further details of muscle:

Slide 59

The inner surface of the heart showing large, pale-staining Purkinje fibers lying across the mid-portion of the picture. They are modified cardiac muscle fibers and seem mostly free of myofibrils except at the cell periphery, so that each cross-cut seems to have a darker pink rim and a pale center. The normal cardiac muscle fibers lie below in this micrograph and appear much smaller and more darkly stained than the Purkinje fibers.

Slide 60

Cross-cut of skeletal muscle to show connective tissue partitioning of muscle into groups or bundles of fibers. Endomysium is very delicate and lies between individual fibers, while perimysium is more visible and lies around a group of fibers. Epimysium is not seen here but ensheaths a whole muscle. In this picture notice the presence of small blood vessels in both perimysium and endomysium. Notice also the cross-cuts of myofibrils within the muscle cells, making them look grainy.

Slide 61

Longitudinal view of skeletal muscle cell with unusually clear cross-striations. This muscle is stretched, so that the A band is widely split.

Slide 62

Diagram of contraction of skeletal muscle. On the left is the view with light microscopy. On the right are the thin actin filaments and thick myosin filaments seen in EM. Notice that the total width of the A band stays the same throughout and that the sliding in or out of the actin filaments determines the width of the H band. Consider which filaments you would see if you cut the muscle cross-wise through the I band, A band, or H band.

Slide 63

EM of cross-cut cardiac muscle showing thick myosin and thin actin filaments in a highly geometric arrangement.

Slide 64

Drawing of relationship (at EM level) of myofibrils to sarcoplasmic reticulum (smooth ER) and T-tubules in skeletal muscle. In this drawing the sarcoplasmic reticulum is labelled "sarcotubules" and "terminal cisternae". Notice that T-tubules are extensions of the sarcolemma (cell membrane, seen at right-hand edge), so that depolarization can spread along this part of the sarcolemma as well. (See diagrams and further explanation in your textbook.)

Slide 65

Same kind of diagram, this time for cardiac muscle. Note differences between the two in:
  1. their amount and arrangement of sarcoplasmic reticulum
  2. the presence or near-absence of terminal cisterns (next to the T-tubules)
  3. the position of T-tubules in relation to the A, I, and Z bands seen at the left.
A triad consists of two terminal cisterns with a T-tubule in the middle. When the cisterns are not well developed, a true triad does not exist. A diad means two elements are together, as with one T-tubule and a neighboring bit of sarcoplasmic reticulum. NOTE: sarcoplasmic reticulum is just a form of smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER). In muscle it is particularly associated with the release of calcium ions needed for contraction.

prev main next

John A. McNulty Last Updated: August 12, 1996