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Am J Physiol. 1999 Mar;276(3):C692-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1999.276.3.C692.

Contribution of mitochondrial proton leak to respiration rate in working skeletal muscle and liver and to SMR.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QW, United Kingdom.


Proton pumping across the mitochondrial inner membrane and proton leak back through the natural proton conductance pathway make up a futile cycle that dissipates redox energy. We measured respiration and average mitochondrial membrane potential in perfused rat hindquarter with maximal tetanic contraction of the left gastrocnemius-soleus-plantaris muscle group, and we estimate that the mitochondrial proton cycle accounted for 34% of the respiration rate of the preparation. Similar measurements in rat hepatocytes given substrates to cause a high rate of gluconeogenesis and ureagenesis showed that the proton cycle accounted for 22% of the respiration rate of these cells. Combining these in vitro values with literature values for the contribution of skeletal muscle and liver to standard metabolic rate (SMR), we calculate that the proton cycle in working muscle and liver may account for 15% of SMR in vivo. Although this value is less than the 20% of SMR we calculated previously using data from resting skeletal muscle and hepatocytes, it is still large, and we conclude that the futile proton cycle is a major contributor to SMR.

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