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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 1989; 86(5): 1583–1587.
PMCID: PMC286742

Oxidative capacity of muscle and mitochondria: correlation of physiological, biochemical, and morphometric characteristics.


The oxidative capacity of cat skeletal muscles (soleus, gracilis, and gracilis chronically stimulated for 28 days) was derived from the total mitochondrial content in the muscle, the surface area of mitochondrial inner membranes, and respiratory activities of isolated mitochondria. Mitochondrial content was estimated by standard morphometry. The surface area of mitochondrial inner membranes per unit volume of mitochondria was estimated by a stereological method. The respiratory activities of isolated mitochondria were measured biochemically, using pyruvate/malate, glutamate/malate, succinate, or cytochrome c as substrate. Structurally and functionally, mitochondria from the three muscle types showed nearly identical characteristics. Oxidative activity was dependent on substrate; with succinate, 5.8 ml of O2 per min per ml of mitochondria was the rate most likely to represent physiological conditions. Oxidative activities of 3.1 ml.min-1.ml-1 with pyruvate/malate and 14.5 ml.min-1.ml-1 with cytochrome c as substrates were theoretical lower and upper bounds. The oxidative capacity of each of the three muscles was thus in direct proportion to the total volume of mitochondria in the muscle. The respiratory capacity of isolated mitochondria was very near to the maximal oxygen uptake rate of mitochondria that is commonly estimated in intact muscles of a wide variety of animals.

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