Intramuscular innervation of horizontal rectus extraocular muscle (EOMs) is segregated into superior and inferior (transverse) compartments, whereas all EOMs are also divided into global (GL) and orbital (OL) layers with scleral and pulley insertions, respectively. Mechanical independence between both types of compartments has been demonstrated during passive tensile loading. We examined coupling between EOM compartments during active, ex vivo contraction.
Fresh bovine EOMs were removed, and one compartment of each was coated with hydrophobic petrolatum. Contraction of the uncoated compartment was induced by immersion in a solution of 50 mM CaCl2 at 38°C labeled with sodium fluorescein dye, whereas tensions in both compartments were monitored by strain gauges. Control experiments omitted petrolatum so that the entire EOM contracted. After physiological experiments, EOMs were sectioned transversely to demonstrate specificity of CaCl2 permeation by yellow fluorescence dye excited by blue light.
In control experiments without petrolatum, both transverse and GL and OL compartments contracted similarly. Selective compartmental omission of petrolatum caused markedly independent compartmental contraction whether measured at the GL or the OL insertions or for transverse compartments at the scleral insertion. Although some CaCl2 spread occurred, mean (±SD) tension in the coated compartments averaged only 10.5 ± 3.3% and 6.0 ± 1.5% in GL/OL and transverse compartments, respectively relative to uncoated compartments. Fluorescein penetration confirmed selective CaCl2 permeation.
These data confirm passive tensile findings of mechanical independence of EOM compartments and extend results to active contraction. EOMs behave actively as if composed of mechanically independent parallel fiber bundles having different insertional targets, consistent with the active pulley and transverse compartmental hypotheses.
The orbital, global, and transverse compartments of individual bovine extraocular muscles generate tension independently of one another during ex vivo calcium activation. This finding, the result of parallel fibers in extraocular muscle, supports a postulate essential to the active pulley and compartmental hypotheses.