Titin, the largest protein known, forms an elastic myofilament in the striated muscle sarcomere. To establish titin's contribution to skeletal muscle passive stiffness, relative to that of the extracellular matrix, a mouse model was created in which titin's molecular spring region was shortened by deleting 47 exons, the TtnΔ112-158 model. RNA sequencing and super-resolution microscopy predicts a much stiffer titin molecule. Mechanical studies with this novel mouse model support that titin is the main determinant of skeletal muscle passive stiffness. Unexpectedly, the in vivo sarcomere length working range was shifted to shorter lengths in TtnΔ112-158 mice, due to a ~ 30% increase in the number of sarcomeres in series (longitudinal hypertrophy). The expected effect of this shift on active force generation was minimized through a shortening of thin filaments that was discovered in TtnΔ112-158 mice. Thus, skeletal muscle titin is the dominant determinant of physiological passive stiffness and drives longitudinal hypertrophy.
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