Journal of Applied Physiology

Cardiac enzyme activities in fetal and adult pregnant and nonpregnant sheep exposed to high-altitude hypoxemia

T. Ohtsuka, R. D. Gilbert


We measured pyruvate kinase (PK), citrate synthase (CS), and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activities in the right and left ventricles of fetal, maternal, and nonpregnant adult sheep exposed to high altitude (3,820 m) for 112 days and compared them with control groups of animals kept at sea level. Enzymes were assayed by the spectrophotometric appearance of reaction products specific to each enzyme, and activity was expressed as micromoles per minute per gram of wet weight of tissue. In control sheep, CS activity was significantly higher in both ventricles of the pregnant and nonpregnant adult compared with the fetus. However, LDH and PK activities were only higher in the left ventricle of the nonpregnant adult compared with the fetus. Long-term hypoxemia significantly increased LDH activities in fetal (57 and 53%), pregnant adult (29 and 27%), and non-pregnant adult (25 and 24%) right and left ventricles, respectively. CS activities also increased in fetal (90 and 97%), pregnant adult (43 and 39%), and nonpregnant adult (46 and 48%) right and left ventricles, respectively. However, PK activity was not affected by altitude in any group of animals. In the fetal heart, which uses lactate as its primary metabolic fuel, these enzyme changes may help enhance aerobic energy production during hypoxemia. In the adult heart, which relies on free fatty acids as well as glucose for energy production, the significance of these enzyme changes is less clear.