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Int J Physiol Pathophysiol Pharmacol. 2014 Jul 12;6(2):84-101. eCollection 2014.

The relationship between skeletal muscle mitochondrial citrate synthase activity and whole body oxygen uptake adaptations in response to exercise training.

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Xlab, Center for Healthy Aging, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen Denmark.


Citrate synthase (CS) activity is a validated biomarker for mitochondrial density in skeletal muscle. CS activity is also used as a biochemical marker of the skeletal muscle oxidative adaptation to a training intervention, and a relationship between changes in whole body aerobic capacity and changes in CS activity is often assumed. However, this relationship and absolute values of CS and maximal oxygen uptake (V.O2max) has never been assessed across different studies. A systematic PubMed search on literature published from 1983 to 2013 was performed. The search profile included: citrate, synthase, human, skeletal, muscle, training, not electrical stimulation, not in-vitro, not rats. Studies that reported changes in CS activity and V.O2max were included. Different training types and subject populations were analyzed independently to assess correlation between relative changes in V.O2max and CS activity. 70 publications with 97 intervention groups were included. There was a positive (r = 0.45) correlation (P < 0.001) between the relative change in V.O2max and the relative change in CS activity. All reported absolute values of CS and V.O2max did not correlate (r =- 0.07, n = 148, P = 0.4). Training induced changes in whole body oxidative capacity is matched by changes in muscle CS activity in a nearly 1:1 relationship. Absolute values of CS across different studies cannot be compared unless a standardized analytical method is used by all laboratories.


Citrate synthase; endurance training; high-intensity interval training; human skeletal muscle; maximal oxygen uptake


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