Several hours after death, all the muscles of the body go into a state of contracture called “rigor mortis”; that is, the muscles contract and become rigid, even without action potentials. This rigidity results from loss of all the ATP, which is required to cause separation of the cross-bridges from the actin filaments during the relaxation process. The muscles remain in rigor until the muscle proteins deteriorate about 15 to 25 hours later, which presumably results from autolysis caused by enzymes released from lysosomes. All these events occur more rapidly at higher temperatures.
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