Muscle tissue is responsible for the movement of materials through the body, the movement of one part of the body with respect to another, and for locomotion. Fibers in the three kinds of muscle tissue are adapted to contract in response to stimuli. Muscle tissue is unique in its ability to contract, and thus make movement possible. The muscle cells, or fibers, are elongated in the direction of contraction, and movement is accomplished through the shortening of the fibers in response to a stimulus. Muscle tissue is derived from mesoderm. There are three types of muscle tissue in the body: smooth, cardiac, and skeletal muscle tissue (fig. 1-9).
FIGURE 1-9 Muscle tissue: (a) smooth, (b) cardiac, and (c) skeletal.
Smooth muscle tissue is common throughout the body, occurring in many of the systems. For example, in the wall of the GI tract it provides the contractile force for the peristaltic movements involved in the mechanical digestion of food. Smooth muscle is also found in the walls of arteries, the walls of respiratory passages, and in the urinary and reproductive ducts. The contraction of smooth muscle is under autonomic (involuntary) nervous control. Smooth muscle fibers are long, spindle-shaped cells. They contain a single nucleus and lack striations. These cells are usually grouped together in flattened sheets, forming the muscular portion of a wall around a lumen.
Cardiac muscle tissue makes up most of the wall of the heart. This tissue is characterized by bifurcating (branching) fibers, each with a single, centrally positioned nucleus, and by transversely positioned intercalated discs. Intercalated discs help to hold adjacent cells together and transmit the force of contraction from cell to cell. Like skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle is striated, but unlike skeletal muscle it experiences rhythmic involuntary contractions.
Skeletal muscle tissue attaches to the skeleton and is responsible for voluntary body movements. Each elongated, multinucleated fiber has distinct transverse striations. Fibers of this muscle tissue are grouped into parallel fasciculi (bundles) that can be seen without a microscope in fresh muscle. Both cardiac and skeletal muscle fibers cannot replicate once tissue formation has been completed shortly after birth. The three types of muscle tissue are summarized in table 4.
||Structure and Function
fiber with single nucleus;
of internal organs
|Walls of hollow internal organs
||Branched, striated fiber with single nucleus
and intercalated discs;
cylindrical fiber that occurs in fasciculi;
voluntary movement of skeletal parts
|Associated with skeleton; spans joints of skeleton
TABLE 4. Summary of Muscle Tissue