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Am J Physiol. 1981 Jul;241(1):C47-54.

Physiological and biochemical effects of iron deficiency on rat skeletal muscle.


Young rats were made iron deficient by feeding them a low-iron diet for 8 wk. Iron deficiency resulted in a 50% decrease in cytochrome c and cytochrome oxidase and a 26% decrease in mitochondrial glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase activity in skeletal muscle. Respiratory capacity of muscle homogenates was reduced 55%. After 8 days of iron treatment, respiratory capacity, cytochrome c, cytochrome oxidase, and glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase had returned 50% toward normal. Maximum O2 uptake of contracting hindlimb muscles averaged 8.5 mumol O2.min-1.g-1 in control, 4.3 mumol O2.min-1.g-1 in iron-deficient, and 6.2 mumol O2.min-1.g-1 in the 8-day-iron-repleted rats. Muscle fatigue during 10 min of stimulation was greater in the iron-deficient group. Lactate concentration in red muscle was higher in iron-deficient than in control rats after stimulation. The muscle fatigue and lactate responses returned 50% toward normal during 8 days of iron treatment. We conclude that iron deficiency results in a decrease in skeletal muscle capacity for aerobic metabolism and, by this mechanism, increases susceptibility to fatigue.

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