Three O2 dissociation curves from venous blood [taken at rest (A), after in vitro acidification with lactic acid (B), and after exhaustive exercise (C)] were determined in eight athletes twice in a year in detrained and fully trained state. The steepness of the standard O2 dissociation curve becomes greater during the training period (increase in Hill's n from 2.68 +/- 0.10 to 2.96 +/- 0.15). There was a concomitant small rise in the intraerythrocytic organic phosphate concentrations. Bohr coefficients (BC) were calculated for blood O2 saturations ranging from 10 to 80% by comparing the dissociation curves A and B (“in vitro” BC) and curves A and C (“in vivo” BC). In detrained and trained state the in vivo BC show their maximal values at low saturation levels, in contrast the in vitro BC exhibit maximal values at middle saturations. During the training period there was an increase in the in vivo BC as well as in the in vitro BC at low saturations. These alterations may lead to augmented O2 extraction from a given volume of blood by up to 15% during heavy work in trained state. The reason for these observations could be an altered erythrocyte population.
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