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J Physiol. 2005 Jan 15;562(Pt 2):521-6. Epub 2004 Nov 18.

Lactate and force production in skeletal muscle.

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Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, August Krogh Institute, Universitetsparken 13, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.


Lactic acid accumulation is generally believed to be involved in muscle fatigue. However, one study reported that in rat soleus muscle (in vitro), with force depressed by high external K(+) concentrations a subsequent incubation with lactic acid restores force and thereby protects against fatigue. However, incubation with 20 mm lactic acid reduces the pH gradient across the sarcolemma, whereas the gradient is increased during muscle activity. Furthermore, unlike active muscle the Na(+)-K(+) pump is not activated. We therefore hypothesized that lactic acid does not protect against fatigue in active muscle. Three incubation solutions were used: 20 mM Na-lactate (which acidifies internal pH), 12 mM Na-lactate +8 mm lactic acid (which mimics the pH changes during muscle activity), and 20 mM lactic acid (which acidifies external pH more than internal pH). All three solutions improved force in K(+)-depressed rat soleus muscle. The pH regulation associated with lactate incubation accelerated the Na(+)-K(+) pump. To study whether the protective effect of lactate/lactic acid is a general mechanism, we stimulated muscles to fatigue with and without pre-incubation. None of the incubation solutions improved force development in repetitively stimulated muscle (Na-lactate had a negative effect). It is concluded that although lactate/lactic acid incubation regains force in K(+)-depressed resting muscle, a similar incubation has no or a negative effect on force development in active muscle. It is suggested that the difference between the two situations is that lactate/lactic acid removes the negative consequences of an unusual large depolarization in the K(+)-treated passive muscle, whereas the depolarization is less pronounced in active muscle.

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