Expression of Myosin Heavy Chain Isoforms in the Supraspinatus Muscle of Different Primate Species: Implications for the Study of the Adaptation of Primate Shoulder Muscles to Different Locomotor Modes

Jul 1, 2011

The supraspinatus muscle is a key component of the soft tissues of the shoulder. In pronograde primates, its main function, in combination with the other rotator cuff muscles (subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor), is to stabilize the glenohumeral joint, whereas in orthograde primates it functions together with the deltoid, to elevate the upper extremity in the scapular plane. To determine whether these functional differences are also reflected in the molecular biochemistry of the supraspinatus muscles involved in these different locomotor modes, we used real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to analyze the expression of the myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms in supraspinatus muscles from modern humans and 12 species of pronograde and orthograde primates. The MHC expression pattern in the supraspinatus muscle of pronograde primates was consistent with its function as a tonic and postural muscle, whereas the MHC expression pattern observed in the supraspinatus muscle of nonhuman orthograde primates was that of a muscle that emphasizes speed, strength, and less resistance to fatigue. These findings are consistent with the role of the supraspinatus in the posture and locomotor modes of these groups of nonhuman primates. The humans included in the study had an expression pattern similar to that of the nonhuman orthograde primates. In conclusion, molecular analysis of skeletal muscles via RT-PCR can contribute to a better understanding of the morphological and functional characteristics of the primate musculoskeletal system. KeywordsMyosin heavy chain–Primate locomotion–Real-time polymerase chain reaction–Supraspinatus