The myofibril is a long contractile unit made of the myofilaments actin and myosin which form the sarcomere. They line up parallel to one another forming cylindrical structures which bundle together into a muscle fibre. The regular arrangement of cross striations of sarcomeres, which can be observed under a low magnification electron microscope, attribute to the alternative name given to skeletal muscles: striated muscle. An electron micrograph of myofibrils shows differently shaded bands. These are representative of the different density protein filaments:
- Z lines: thick, darkly stained, short filaments which mark the start and end of the sarcomere. They shorten during contraction.
- A bands: thick, darkly stained region which marks the locations of myosin filaments and doesn’t change in length during contraction.
- M lines (or midlines): thin, darkly stained, short vertical filaments which link the two myosin II complexes of the sarcomere at their tail regions.
- I bands: thin, lightly stained region which marks the locations of actin filaments and shortens during contraction.
- ↑ Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Raff M, Roberts K and Walter P. (2008) Molecular Biology of The Cell, 5th edition, New York: Garland Science