Dynamics and consequences of potassium shifts in skeletal muscle and heart during exercise

Physiological Reviews
O M Sejersted, G Sjøgaard

Abstract

Since it became clear that K(+) shifts with exercise are extensive and can cause more than a doubling of the extracellular [K(+)] ([K(+)](s)) as reviewed here, it has been suggested that these shifts may cause fatigue through the effect on muscle excitability and action potentials (AP). The cause of the K(+) shifts is a transient or long-lasting mismatch between outward repolarizing K(+) currents and K(+) influx carried by the Na(+)-K(+) pump. Several factors modify the effect of raised [K(+)](s) during exercise on membrane potential (E(m)) and force production. 1) Membrane conductance to K(+) is variable and controlled by various K(+) channels. Low relative K(+) conductance will reduce the contribution of [K(+)](s) to the E(m). In addition, high Cl(-) conductance may stabilize the E(m) during brief periods of large K(+) shifts. 2) The Na(+)-K(+) pump contributes with a hyperpolarizing current. 3) Cell swelling accompanies muscle contractions especially in fast-twitch muscle, although little in the heart. This will contribute considerably to the lowering of intracellular [K(+)] ([K(+)](c)) and will attenuate the exercise-induced rise of intracellular [Na(+)] ([Na(+)](c)). 4) The rise of [Na(+)](c) is sufficient to activate the ...Continue Reading

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