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J Physiol. 2006 Mar 15;571(Pt 3):669-81. Epub 2006 Jan 19.

Cycling efficiency in humans is related to low UCP3 content and to type I fibres but not to mitochondrial efficiency.

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Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that cycling efficiency in vivo is related to mitochondrial efficiency measured in vitro and to investigate the effect of training status on these parameters. Nine endurance trained and nine untrained male subjects (V(O2peak) = 60.4 +/- 1.4 and 37.0 +/- 2.0 ml kg(-1) min(-1), respectively) completed an incremental submaximal efficiency test for determination of cycling efficiency (gross efficiency, work efficiency (WE) and delta efficiency). Muscle biopsies were taken from m. vastus lateralis and analysed for mitochondrial respiration, mitochondrial efficiency (MEff; i.e. P/O ratio), UCP3 protein content and fibre type composition (% MHC I). MEff was determined in isolated mitochondria during maximal (state 3) and submaximal (constant rate of ADP infusion) rates of respiration with pyruvate. The rates of mitochondrial respiration and oxidative phosphorylation per muscle mass were about 40% higher in trained subjects but were not different when expressed per unit citrate synthase (CS) activity (a marker of mitochondrial density). Training status had no influence on WE (trained 28.0 +/- 0.5, untrained 27.7 +/- 0.8%, N.S.). Muscle UCP3 was 52% higher in untrained subjects, when expressed per muscle mass (P < 0.05 versus trained). WE was inversely correlated to UCP3 (r = -0.57, P < 0.05) and positively correlated to percentage MHC I (r = 0.58, P < 0.05). MEff was lower (P < 0.05) at submaximal respiration rates (2.39 +/- 0.01 at 50% V(O2max)) than at state 3 (2.48 +/- 0.01) but was neither influenced by training status nor correlated to cycling efficiency. In conclusion cycling efficiency was not influenced by training status and not correlated to MEff, but was related to type I fibres and inversely related to UCP3. The inverse correlation between WE and UCP3 indicates that extrinsic factors may influence UCP3 activity and thus MEff in vivo.

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