Journal of Applied Physiology


We hypothesized that muscle fiber bundles produce reactive oxygen intermediates and that reactive oxidant species contribute to muscular fatigue in vitro. Fiber bundles from rat diaphragm were mounted in chambers containing Krebs-Ringer solution. In studies of intracellular oxidant kinetics, bundles were loaded with 2′,7′-dichlorofluorescin, a fluorochrome that emits at 520 nm when oxidized; emissions were quantified using a fluorescence microscope. Emissions from unstimulated muscles increased over time (P < 0.001). Accumulation of fluorescence was slowed by addition of catalase (P < 0.001) or superoxide dismutase (P < 0.001) and was accelerated by repetitive muscular contraction (P < 0.05). To determine effects of reactive oxygen intermediates on fatigue, curarized bundles were stimulated to contract isometrically; force was measured. Catalase, superoxide dismutase, and dimethyl sulfoxide were screened for effects on low- and high-frequency fatigue. Antioxidants inhibited low-frequency fatigue [after 5 min of repetitive contractions, force at 30 Hz was 20% greater than control (P < 0.015)] and increased the variability of fatigue at 30 Hz (P < 0.03). Antioxidants did not alter high-frequency (200-Hz) fatigue. We conclude that 1) diaphragm fiber bundles produce reactive oxygen intermediates, including O2-. and H2O2; 2) muscular contraction increases intracellular oxidant levels; and 3) reactive oxygen intermediates promote low-frequency fatigue in this preparation.