Biophys J 52:57-68, 1987
A new optical-electronic method has been developed to detect striation spacing of single muscle fibers. The technique avoids Bragg-angle and interference-fringe effects associated with laser light diffraction by using polychromatic (white) light. The light is diffracted once by an acousto-optical device and then diffracted again by the muscle fiber. The double diffraction reverses the chromatic dispersion normally obtained with polychromatic light. In frog skinned muscle fibers, active and passive sarcomere shortening were smooth when observed by white light diffraction, whereas steps and pauses occurred in the striation spacing signals obtained with laser illumination. During active contractions skinned fibers shortened at high rates (3-5 microns/s per half sarcomere, 0-5 degrees C) at loads below 5% of isometric tension. Compression of the myofibrillar lateral filament spacing using osmotic agents reduced the shortening velocity at low loads. A hypothesis is presented that high shortening velocities are observed with skinned muscle fibers because the cross-bridges cannot support compressive loads when the filament lattice is swollen.