Sympathetic activation in exercise is not dependent on muscle acidosis: Direct evidence from studies in metabolic myopathies

John Vissing, Susanne F. Vissing, David A. MacLean, Bengt Saltin, Bjoørn Quistorff, Ronald G. Haller

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60 Scopus citations


Muscle acidosis has been implicated as a major determinant of reflex sympathetic activation during exercise. To test this hypothesis we studied sympathetic exercise responses in metabolic myopathies in which muscle acidosis is impaired or augmented during exercise. As an index of reflex sympathetic activation to muscle, microneurographic measurements of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were obtained from the peroneal nerve. MSNA was measured during static handgrip exercise at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction force to exhaustion in patients in whom exercise-induced muscle acidosis is absent (seven myophosphorylase deficient patients; MD [McArdle's disease], and one patient with muscle phosphofructokinase deficiency [PFKD]), augmented (one patient with mitochondrial myopathy [MM]), or normal (five healthy controls). Muscle pH was monitored by 31P-magnetic resonance spectroscopy during handgrip exercise in the five control subjects, four MD patients, and the MM and PFKD patients. With handgrip to exhaustion, the increase in MSNA over baseline (bursts per minute [bpm] and total activity [%]) was not impaired in patients with MD (17 ± 2 bpm, 124 ± 42%) or PFKD (65 bpm, 307%), and was not enhanced in the MM patient (24 bpm, 131%) compared with controls (17±4 bpm, 115 ± 17%). Post-handgrip ischemia studied in one McArdle patient, caused sustained elevation of MSNA above basal suggesting a chemoreflex activation of MSNA. Handgrip exercise elicited an enhanced drop in muscle pH of 0.51 U in the MM patient compared with the decrease in controls of 0.13 ± 0.02 U. In contrast, muscle pH increased with exercise in MD by 0.12 ± 0.05 U and in PFKD by 0.01 U. In conclusion, patients with glycogenolytic, glycolytic, and oxidative phosphorylation defects show normal muscle sympathetic nerve responses to static exercise. These findings indicate that muscle acidosis is not a prerequisite for sympathetic activation in exercise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1654-1660
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 1998


  • McArdle's disease
  • Microneurography
  • Mitochondrial myopathy
  • Myophosphorylase deficiency
  • Phosphofructokinase deficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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