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Striated musculature

Recommended video: Skeletal muscle tissue [12:25]
This type of tissue is found in skeletal muscles and is responsible for the voluntary movements of bones.

Striated musculature comprises of two types of tissues: skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle. Skeletal muscle is the tissue that most muscles attached to bones are made of. Hence the word "skeletal". Cardiac muscle, on the other hand, is the muscle found on the walls of the heart.

Microscopically both the skeletal and cardiac musculature have a “striated” appearance due to their densely packed myofibrils. Therefore they are referred to as striated muscle tissue. However, they differ partly in their histology and physiology

  1. Skeletal musculature
    1. Structure of the skeletal muscle
    2. Structure of skeletal muscle fibers
    3. Function and innervation
  2. Cardiac musculature
    1. Structure of cardiac muscle fibers
    2. Function and innervation
  3. Clinical notes
    1. Myopathies and neuropathies
  4. Sources
+ Show all

Skeletal musculature

Structure of the skeletal muscle

Muscle fibers and connective tissue layers make up the skeletal muscle. A skeletal muscle fiber is around 20-100 µm thick and up to 20 cm long. Embryologically. it develops by the chain-like fusion of myoblasts. About 200-250 muscle fibers are surrounded by endomysium forming the functional unit of the muscle, the primary bundle. Groups of primary bundles are wrapped by the perimysium building secondary bundles (“meat fibers”). The entire muscle is finally enclosed by epimysium and lies within its fascia, a tight connective tissue that separates the muscle from the surrounding structures.

Structure of skeletal muscle fibers

Skeletal muscle (histology slide)

Histologically, the muscle fibers contain noticeable spindle shaped nuclei located peripherally. The eosinophilic sarcoplasm (cytoplasm) comprises almost completely of myofibrils. Along the myofibrils runs the longitudinal (L-) system (sarcoplasmic reticulum).

The sarcolemma (cell membrane) is surrounded by a basal lamina and deeply invaginates into the sarcoplasm forming the transverse (T-) tubules. The bright bands are referred to as isotropic (I-) bands, the dark bands as anisotropic (A-) bands.

In the center of the A-bands runs the M-line where the myosin filaments are anchored. The actin filaments are attached to the Z-line which is found in the middle of the I-bands. The area between two Z-lines makes up a functional unit, the sarcomere. The myosin filaments bind to the actin filaments through cross bridges. The contraction of the muscle results from the ATP-dependent rowing motion of the myosin heads causing a shift of the actin filaments.

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Function and innervation

The skeletal musculature is part of the locomotor system and has the task of moving and stabilizing the skeleton. Therefore they are attached to the bones by collagen-rich tendons. But also other organs such as the tongue, mimic musculature and the diaphragm consist of skeletal musculature.

The innervation is carried out by the somatic nervous system so that (almost) all skeletal muscles may be controlled voluntarily. A motor neuron and its associated muscle fibers make up a motor unit. Fine muscles (e.g. outer eye muscles) have small motor units and therefore can be controlled more precisely in comparison to gross muscles (e.g. back muscles).

To review what you learned so far about the skeletal muscle tissue, take the following quiz and consolidate your knowledge!

Cardiac musculature

Structure of cardiac muscle fibers

A cardiac muscle cell (cardiomyocyte) is about 10-20 µm thick and 50-100 µm long. The cytoplasm contains myofibrils and densely packed mitochondria. The fibrils do not run strictly parallel to each other but rather branch in a complex pattern. The cardiac muscle cell has one centrally located nucleus. The structure of the sarcomere resembles the one of the skeletal muscle cell. The T-tubules are larger and branched whereas the L-system is smaller. Characteristic are the intercalated discs which connect the cardiac cells moth mechanically and electrically.

Function and innervation

Cardiac muscle (histology slide)

Cardiac muscle cells are specialized striated muscle cells found only in the heart. Their main task is the heart contraction. In addition, they produce the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) in the atria. The ANP stimulates the diuresis and thus lowers the blood pressure.

The innervation is carried out autonomously by special cardiac muscle cells mainly found subendocardially. The heart conduction system is made up of the sinuatrial (SA) node – known as the “pacemaker” – the atrioventricular (AV) node, the bundle of His, the left and right bundle branches (Tawara branches) and the Purkinje fibers.

Finish this study session by taking the following quiz and on the cardiac muscle tissue!

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