Myoglobin desaturation with exercise intensity in human gastrocnemius muscle

Paul A. Molé, Youngran Chung, Tuan Khanh Tran, Napapon Sailasuta, Ralph Hurd, Thomas Jue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


The present study evaluated whether intracellular partial pressure of O2 (PO2) modulates the muscle O2 uptake (V̇O2) as exercise intensity increased. Indirect calorimetry followed V̇O2, whereas nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) monitored the high-energy phosphate levels, intracellular pH, and intracellular PO2 in the gastrocnemius muscle of four untrained subjects at rest, during plantar flexion exercise with a constant load at a repetition rate of 0.75, 0.92, and 1.17 Hz, and during postexercise recovery. V̇O2 increased linearly with exercise intensity and peaked at 1.17 Hz (15.1 ± 0.37 watts), when the subjects could maintain the exercise for only 3 min. V̇O2 reached a peak value of 13.0 ± 1.59 ml O2 · min-1 · 100 ml leg volume-1. The 31P spectra indicated that phosphocreatine decreased to 32% of its resting value, whereas intracellular pH decreased linearly with power output, reaching 6.86. Muscle ATP concentration, however, remained constant throughout the exercise protocol. The 1H NMR deoxymyoglobin signal, reflecting the cellular PO2, decreased in proportion to increments in power output and V̇O2. At the highest exercise intensity and peak V̇O2, myoglobin was ~50% desaturated. These findings, taken together, suggest that the O2 gradient from hemoglobin to the mitochondria can modulate the O2 flux to meet the increased V̇O2 in exercising muscle, but declining cellular PO2 during enhanced mitochondrial respiration suggests that O2 availability is not limiting V̇O2 during exercise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1 46-1
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • Bioenergetics
  • Metabolism
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Oxygen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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