The Sliding Filament Theory

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The sliding of myosin and actin filaments causes muscles to contract. There are many forms of muscle contraction including contraction of the skeletal muscle, the heart and gut peristalsis[1] all of which require the well regulated movement of the ATP-dependent sliding filaments. Each sarcomere is made up of a highly organised sequence of thick and thin filaments. The thin filaments are mainly made up of actin along with associated proteins[2]. These filaments are all attached by their ends to a structure called a Z disc, the other end reaches parallel into the structure overlapping the thick filaments which are made up of myosin, each filament is evenly spaced between the other[3]. Sarcomere shortening is not caused by the contraction or shortening of the actual filaments but by the sliding of the myosin filaments past the actin filaments[4].


  1. Alberts et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th edition:1026
  2. Alberts et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th edition:1026
  3. Alberts et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 5th edition:1026
  4. Bowness et al, CGP, A2 Level Biology Revision guide:62
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