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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52191. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052191. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

Increasing exercise intensity reduces heterogeneity of glucose uptake in human skeletal muscles.

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Turku PET Centre, University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland.


Proper muscle activation is a key feature of survival in different tasks in daily life as well as sports performance, but can be impaired in elderly and in diseases. Therefore it is also clinically important to better understand the phenomenon that can be elucidated in humans non-invasively by positron emission tomography (PET) with measurements of spatial heterogeneity of glucose uptake within and among muscles during exercise. We studied six healthy young men during 35 minutes of cycling at relative intensities of 30% (low), 55% (moderate), and 75% (high) of maximal oxygen consumption on three separate days. Glucose uptake in the quadriceps femoris muscle group (QF), the main force producing muscle group in recreational cycling, and its four individual muscles, was directly measured using PET and 18F-fluoro-deoxy-glucose. Within-muscle heterogeneity was determined by calculating the coefficient of variance (CV) of glucose uptake in PET image voxels within the muscle of interest, and among-muscles heterogeneity of glucose uptake in QF was expressed as CV of the mean glucose uptake values of its separate muscles. With increasing intensity, within-muscle heterogeneity decreased in the entire QF as well as within its all four individual parts. Among-muscles glucose uptake heterogeneity also decreased with increasing intensity. However, mean glucose uptake was consistently lower and heterogeneity higher in rectus femoris muscle that is known to consist of the highest percentage of fast twitch type II fibers, compared to the other three QF muscles. In conclusion, these results show that in addition to increased contribution of distinct muscle parts, with increases in exercise intensity there is also an enhanced recruitment of muscle fibers within all of the four heads of QF, despite established differences in muscle-part specific fiber type distributions. Glucose uptake heterogeneity may serve as a useful non-invasive tool to elucidate muscle activation in aging and diseased populations.

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