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Physiol Rev. 2008 Jan;88(1):287-332. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00015.2007.

Skeletal muscle fatigue: cellular mechanisms.

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School of Medical Sciences and Bosch Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Repeated, intense use of muscles leads to a decline in performance known as muscle fatigue. Many muscle properties change during fatigue including the action potential, extracellular and intracellular ions, and many intracellular metabolites. A range of mechanisms have been identified that contribute to the decline of performance. The traditional explanation, accumulation of intracellular lactate and hydrogen ions causing impaired function of the contractile proteins, is probably of limited importance in mammals. Alternative explanations that will be considered are the effects of ionic changes on the action potential, failure of SR Ca2+ release by various mechanisms, and the effects of reactive oxygen species. Many different activities lead to fatigue, and an important challenge is to identify the various mechanisms that contribute under different circumstances. Most of the mechanistic studies of fatigue are on isolated animal tissues, and another major challenge is to use the knowledge generated in these studies to identify the mechanisms of fatigue in intact animals and particularly in human diseases.

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