Selected contribution: skeletal muscle capillarity and enzyme activity in rats selectively bred for running endurance

Richard A Howlett, Norberto C Gonzalez, Harrieth E Wagner, Zhenxing Fu, Steven L Britton, Lauren G Koch, Peter D Wagner
Journal of Applied Physiology 2003, 94 (4): 1682-8
To attempt to explain the difference in intrinsic (untrained) endurance running capacity in rats selectively bred over seven generations for either low (LCR) or high running capacity (HCR), the relationship among skeletal muscle capillarity, fiber composition, enzyme activity, and O(2) transport was studied. Ten females from each group [body wt: 228 g (HCR), 247 g (LCR); P = 0.03] were studied at 25 wk of age. Peak normoxic maximum O(2) consumption and muscle O(2) conductance were previously reported to be 12 and 33% higher, respectively, in HCR, despite similar ventilation, arterial O(2) saturation, and a cardiac output that was <10% greater in HCR compared with LCR. Total capillary and fiber number in the medial gastrocnemius were similar in HCR and LCR, but, because fiber area was 37% lower in HCR, the number of capillaries per unit area (or mass) of muscle was higher in HCR by 32% (P < 0.001). A positive correlation (r = 0.92) was seen between capillary density and muscle O(2) conductance. Skeletal muscle enzymes citrate synthase and beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase were both approximately 40% higher (P < 0.001) in HCR (12.4 +/- 0.7 vs. 8.7 +/- 0.4 and 3.4 +/- 0.2 vs. 2.4 +/- 0.2 mmol. kg(-1). min(-1), respectively), whereas phosphofructokinase was significantly (P = 0.02) lower in HCR (27.8 +/- 1.2 vs. 35.2 +/- 2.5 mmol. kg(-1). min(-1)) and hexokinase was the same (0.65 +/- 0.04 vs. 0.65 +/- 0.03 mmol. kg(-1). min(-1)). Resting muscle ATP, phosphocreatine, and glycogen contents were not different between groups. Taken together, these data suggest that, in rats selectively bred for high-endurance exercise capacity, most of the adaptations for improved O(2) utilization occur peripherally in the skeletal muscles and not in differences at the level of the heart or lung.

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