Triad (anatomy)

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In the histology of skeletal muscle, a triad is the structure formed by a T tubule with a sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) cisterna on either side. Each skeletal muscle fiber has many thousands of triads, visible in muscle fibers that have been sectioned longitudinally. (This property holds because T tubules run perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the muscle fiber.) In mammals, triads are typically located at the junction between the A and I bands of the sarcomere, which is the smallest unit of a muscle fiber.

Triads form the anatomical basis of excitation-contraction coupling, whereby a stimulus excites the muscle and causes it to contract. A stimulus, in the form of positively charged current, is transmitted from the neuromuscular junction down the length of the T tubules, activating dihydropyridine receptors (DHPRs). Their activation causes 1) a negligible influx of calcium and 2) a mechanical interaction with calcium-conducting ryanodine receptors (RyRs) on the adjacent SR membrane. Activation of RyRs causes the release of calcium from the SR, which subsequently initiates a cascade of events leading to muscle contraction.

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