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Why do slow oxidative muscle fibres contain more mitochondria compared to fast-glycolytic muscle fibres?

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  • $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, the slow oxidative fibers compose mostly structural muscles (thing multifidus, longissimus, capitus muscles) which are "on" a lot of the time but don't retract quickly like fast glycolitic fibres. Because the SO muscles need to be active most of the day, they probably have higher energy requirements - whereas FG muscles can get by with less because you can store enough energy for occasional activation (you're not doing pushups all day). It's been a while, though. $\endgroup$ – MCM Oct 27 '12 at 4:06
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This is well-explained at the Wikipedia page on skeletal striated muscle.

There are two principal ways to categorize muscle fibers: the type of myosin (fast or slow) present, and the degree of oxidative phosphorylation that the fiber undergoes. Skeletal muscle can thus be broken down into two broad categories: Type I and Type II. Type I fibers appear red due to the presence of the oxygen binding protein myoglobin. These fibers are suited for endurance and are slow to fatigue because they use oxidative metabolism to generate ATP. Type II fibers are white due to the absence of myoglobin and a reliance on glycolytic enzymes. These fibers are efficient for short bursts of speed and power and use both oxidative metabolism and anaerobic metabolism depending on the particular sub-type. These fibers are quicker to fatigue.

In the terms used in the article, the Type II fibers rely on anaerobic, glycolytic metabolism, whereas the Type I fibers use oxidative metabolism which, of course, requires mitochondria for the TCA cycle and oxidative phosphorylation.The Type I fibers also contain myoglobin which promotes rapid movement of O2 through the cytosol to the mitochondrial ATP synthase.

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