Caption: The sarcomere shortens during power stroke cycle in rigor mortis. Since muscles store energy in their myosin heads, it is possible for muscles to contract even after death. This is the case of rigor mortis. Shortly after death, cytoplasmic levels of calcium increase due to an increase in permeability of sarcoplasmic reticulum and the sarcolemma. This calcium influx will promote crossbridge formation and trigger power stroke cycling. The muscle fibers will ratchet shorter and shorter until ATP stores are depleted. Since ATP is needed to break crossbridges and relax muscle, the power stroke cycle will halt in the contracted state and muscles will remain contracted until the muscles themselves begin to decompose. Depending upon temperature and other conditions, rigor mortis usually lasts about 72 hours.

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Keywords: actin, calcium, cross bridge cycling, cytoplasm, muscle, myofibril, myosin, myosin head, power stroke, rigor mortis, sarcolemma, sarcomere, sarcoplasmic reticulum, tropomyosin, troponin

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Rigor Mortis

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