Fatigue pp 69-80 | Cite as

Role of Interstitial Potassium

  • G. Sjøgaard
  • A. J. McComas
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 384)


Interstitial potassium concentration, [K+], is modulated during muscle activity due to a number of different mechanisms: diffusion and active transport of K+ in combination with water fluxes. The relative significance of the various mechanisms for muscle function is quantified. The effect of interstitial [K+] locally on the single muscle fiber is discussed along with its effect on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and its role in motor control. It is concluded that K+ may play a significant role in the prevention as well as the development of fatigue.


Motor Unit Muscle Fatigue Voluntary Contraction Rest Membrane Potential Muscle Blood Flow 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adrian RH, Costantin LL & Peachey LD (1969). Radial spread of contraction in frog muscle fibres. Journal of Physiology (London) 204, 231–257.Google Scholar
  2. Andersen SLV & Clausen T (1993). Calcitonin gene-related peptide stimulates active Na+-K+ transport in rat soleus muscle. American Journal of Physiology 264, C419–C429.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Aukland K & Reed RK (1993). Interstitial-lymphatic mechanisms in the control of extracellular fluid volume. Physiological Reviews 73, 1–77.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Band DM & Linton RAF (1986). The effect of potassium on carotid body chemoreceptor discharge in the anaesthetized cat. Journal of Physiology (London) 381, 39–47.Google Scholar
  5. Barcroft H & Millen JLE (1939). The blood flow through muscle during sustained contraction. Journal of Physiology (London) 97, 17–31.Google Scholar
  6. Barker D & Saito M (1981). Autonomic innervation of receptors and muscle fibres in cat skeletal muscle. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B-Biological Sciences B212, 317–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnes WS (1993). Effects of Ca2+-channel drugs on K+-induced respiration in skeletal muscle. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 25, 473–478.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergström J, Guarnieri G & Hultman E (1971). Carbohydrate metabolism and electrolyte changes in human muscle tissue during heavy work. Journal of Applied Physiology 30, 122–125.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergström J, Guarnieri G & Hultman E (1973). Changes in muscle water and electrolytes during exercise. In: Keul J. (ed.), Limiting Factors of Physical Performance, pp. 173–178. Stuttgart: Georg Thieme.Google Scholar
  10. Bigland-Ritchie BR, Dawson NJ, Johansson RS & Lippold OCJ (1986). Reflex origin for the slowing of motoneurone firing rates in fatigue of human voluntary contractions. Journal of Physiology (London) 379, 451–459.Google Scholar
  11. Bigland-Ritchie B, Kukulka CG, Lippold OCJ & Woods JJ (1982). The absence of neuromuscular transmission failure in sustained maximal voluntary contractions. Journal of Physiology (London) 330, 265–278.Google Scholar
  12. Brandstater ME & Lambert EH (1973). Motor unit anatomy. In Desmedt JE (ed.), New Developments in Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology, pp. 14–22. Basel: KargerGoogle Scholar
  13. Byström S & Sjøgaard G (1991). Potassium homeostasis during and following exhaustive submaximal static handgrip contractions. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 142, 59–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Castle NA & Haylett DG (1987). Effect of channel blockers on potassium efflux from metabolically exhausted frog skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology (London) 383, 31–43.Google Scholar
  15. Clausen T & Everts ME (1987). Is the Na, K-pump capacity in skeletal muscle inadequate during sustained work? In: Proceedings of the Vth International Conference on Na, K-ATPase. Århus, Denmark. June 14–19, New York: Alan Liss Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Clausen T & Everts ME (1989). Regulation of the Na, K-pump in skeletal muscle. Kidney International 35, 1–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clausen T & Everts ME (1991). K+-induced inhibition of contractile force in rat skeletal muscle: role of active Na+-K+ transport. American Journal of Physiology 261, C799–C807.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Clausen T, Everts ME & Kjeldsen K (1987). Quantification of the maximum capacity for active sodium-potassium transport in rat skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology (London) 388, 163–181.Google Scholar
  19. Creese R, Hashish S & Scholes NW (1958). Potassium movements in contracting diaphragm muscle. Journal of Physiology (London) 143, 307–324.Google Scholar
  20. Crone C, Frøkjær-Jensen J, Friedman JJ & Christensen O (1978). The permeability of single capillaries to potassium ions. Journal of General Physiology 71, 195–220.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Davies NW, Standen NB & Stanfield PR (1992). The effect of intracellular pH on ATP-dependent potassium channels of frog skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology (London) 445, 549–568.Google Scholar
  22. Dawes GS (1941). The vaso-dilator action of potassium. Journal of Physiology (London) 99, 224–238.Google Scholar
  23. De Lanne R, Barnes JR & Brouha L. (1959). Changes in osmotic pressure and ionic concentrations of plasma during muscular work and recovery. Journal of Applied Physiology 14, 804–808.Google Scholar
  24. Eisenberg RS & Gage PW (1969). Ionic conductances of the surface and transverse tubular membranes of frog sartorius fibres. Journal of General Physiology 53, 219–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Enoka RM, Trayanova N, Laouris Y, Bevan L, Reinking RM & Stuart DG (1992). Fatigue-related changes in motor unit action potentials of adult cats. Muscle & Nerve 14, 138–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Everts ME, Lømo T & Clausen T (1993). Changes in K+, Na+ and calcium contents during in vivo stimulation of rat skeletal muscle. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 147, 357–368.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Everts ME, Retterstøl K & Clausen T (1988). Effects of adrenaline on excitation-induced stimulation of the sodium-potassium pump in rat skeletal muscle. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 134, 189–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fallentin N, Jensen BR, Byström S & Sjøgaard G (1992). Role of potassium in the reflex regulation of blood pressure during static exercise in the human. Journal of Physiology (London) 451, 643–651.Google Scholar
  29. Fambrough DM, Wolitzky BA, Tamkim MM & Takeyasu K (1987). Regulation of the sodium pump in excitable cells. Kidney International 32 (suppl. 23), S97–S112.Google Scholar
  30. Fenn WO (1937). Loss of potassium in voluntary contraction. American Journal of Physiology 120, 675–680.Google Scholar
  31. Fenn WO (1938). Factors affecting the loss of potassium from stimulated muscles. American Journal of Physiology 124, 213–229.Google Scholar
  32. Fenn WO & Cobb DM (1936). Electrolyte changes in muscle during activity. American Journal of Physiology 115, 345–356.Google Scholar
  33. Fink R & Lüttgau HC (1976). An evaluation of the membrane constants and the potassium conductance in metabolically exhausted muscle fibres. Journal of Physiology (London) 263, 215–238.Google Scholar
  34. Fitch S & McComas A (1985). Influence of human muscle length on fatigue. Journal of Physiology (London) 362, 205–213.Google Scholar
  35. Goodwin GM, McCloskey DI & Mitchell JH (1972). Cardiovascular and respiratory responses to changes in central command during isometric exercise at constant muscle tension. Journal of Physiology (London) 226, 173–190.Google Scholar
  36. Hallén J, Gullestad L & Sejersted OM (1994). K+ shifts of skeletal muscle during stepwise bicycle exercise with and without α-adrenoceptor blockade. Journal of Physiology (London) 477, 149–159.Google Scholar
  37. Hazeyama Y & Sparks HV (1979). A model of potassium ion efflux during exercise of skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology 236, R83–R90.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Hicks A & McComas AJ (1989). Increased sodium pump activity following repetitive stimulation of rat soleus muscles. Journal of Physiology (London) 414, 337–349.Google Scholar
  39. Hirche H, Schumacher E & Hagemann H (1980). Extracellular K+ concentration and K+ balance of the gastrocnemius muscle of the dog during exercise. Pflügers Archiv 387, 231–237.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hodgkin AL & Horowicz P (1959). The influence of potassium and chloride ions on the membrane potential of single muscle fibres. Journal of Physiology (London) 148, 127–160.Google Scholar
  41. Jackson MJ, Jones DA & Edwards RHT (1984). Experimental skeletal muscle damage: The nature of the calcium-activated degenerative processes. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 14, 369–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jensen BR, Fallentin N, Sjøgaard G & Byström S (1993). Plasma potassium concentration and Doppler blood flow during and following submaximal handgrip contractions. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 147, 203–211.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Johansson H & Sojka P (1991). Pathophysiological mechanisms involved in genesis and spread of muscular tension in occupational muscle pain and in chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes: A hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses 35, 196–203.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Juel C (1986). Potassium and sodium shifts during in vitro isometric muscle contraction, and the time course of the ion-gradient recovery. Pflügers Archiv 406, 458–463.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Juel C (1988a). Is a Ca2+-dependent K+ channel involved in the K+ loss from active muscles? Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 132, P26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Juel C. (1988b). The effect of beta2-adrenoceptor activation on ion-shifts and fatigue in mouse soleus muscles stimmulated in vitro. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 134, 209–216.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Juel C, Bangsbo J, Graham T & Saltin B (1990). Lactate and potassium fluxes from human skeletal muscle during and after intense, dynamic, knee extensor exercise. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 140, 147–159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kiens B, Saltin B, Walløe L & Wesche J (1989). Temporal relationship between blood flow changes and release of ions and metabolites from muscle upon single weak contractions. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 136, 551–559.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kniffki KD, Mense S & Schmidt RF (1981). Muscle receptors with fine afferent fibres which may evoke circulatory reflexes. Circulation Research 48 (suppl I), 25–31.Google Scholar
  50. Kugelberg E & Edström L (1968). Differential histochemical effects of muscle contraction on phosphorylase and glycogen in various types of fibres: relation to fatigue. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 31, 415–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kuiack S & McComas AJ (1992). Transient hyperpolarization of non-contracting muscle fibres in anaesthetized rats. Journal of Physiology (London) 454, 609–618.Google Scholar
  52. Lindinger MI, Heigenhauser GJF, McKelvie RS & Jones NL (1990). Role of nonworking muscle on blood metabolites and ions with intense intermittent exercise. American Journal of Physiology 258, R1486–R1494.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Lipman BS, Dunn M & Massie E (1984). Clinical Electrocardiography, pp. 268–271. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  54. Ludin HP (1970). Microelectrode study of dystrophic human skeletal muscle. European Neurology 3, 116–121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McComas AJ, Galea V & Einhorn RW (1994). Pseudofacilitation: a misleading term. Muscle & Nerve 17, 599–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McComas AJ, Galea V, Einhorn RW, Hicks AL & Kuiack S (1993). The role of the Na+, K+-pump in delaying muscle fatigue. In: Sargeant AJ, Kerneil D (eds.), Neuromuscular Fatigue, pp. 35-43. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.Google Scholar
  57. Medbø JI & Sejersted OM (1985). Acid-base and electrolyte balance after exhausting exercise in endurancetrained and sprint-trained subjects. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 125, 97–109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Medbø JI & Sejersted OM (1990). Plasma potassium changes with high intensity exercise. Journal of Physiology (London) 421, 105–122.Google Scholar
  59. Paterson DJ, Friedland JS, Bascom DA, Clement ID, Cunningham DA, Painter R & Robbins PA (1990). Changes in arterial K+ and ventilation during exercise in normal subjects and subjects with McArdle’s syndrome. Journal of Physiology (London) 429, 339–348.Google Scholar
  60. Renaud JM, Light PE & Comtois AS (1994). The effect of glibenclamide on frog skeletal muscle: evidence for K(ATP) + channel activation during fatigue. Abstracts, Ontario Exercise Physiology Meeting, (Toronto, Canada, February 1994).Google Scholar
  61. Rybicki KJ, Waldrop TG & Kaufman MP (1985). Increasing gracilis muscle interstitial potassium concentrations stimulate group III and IV afferents. Journal of Applied Physiology 58, 936–941.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Saltin B, Sjøgaard G, Gaffney FA & Rowell LB (1981). Potassium, lactate, and water fluxes in human quadriceps muscle during static contractions. Circulation Research 48 (suppl I), I–18–1–24.Google Scholar
  63. Saltin B, Sjøgaard G, Strange S & Juel C (1987). Redistribution of K+ in the human body during muscular exercise; its role to maintain whole body homeostasis. In: Shiraki K, Yousef MK (eds.), Man in Stressful Environments. Thermal and Work Physiology, pp. 247–267. Springfield, IL: CC Thomas.Google Scholar
  64. Sejersted OM & Hallén J (1987). Na, K homeostasis of skeletal muscle during activation. In: Marconnet P, Komi P (eds.), Muscle Function in Exercise and Training. Medicine and Science in Sports, vol 26, pp. 1–11. Basel: Karger.Google Scholar
  65. Sejersted OM, Medbø JI, Orheim A & Hermansen L (1984). Relationship between acid-base status and electrolyte balance after maximal work of short duration. In: Marconnet P, Poortmans JR, Hermansen L. (eds.), Physiological Chemistry of Training and Detraining. Medicine and Science in Sports, vol 17, pp. 40–55. Basel: Karger.Google Scholar
  66. Sjøgaard G (1983). Electrolytes in slow and fast muscle fibers of humans at rest and with dynamic exercise. American Journal of Physiology 245, R25–R31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  67. Sjogaard G (1986). Water and electrolyte fluxes during exercise and their relation to muscle fatigue. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 128 (suppl 556), 129–136.Google Scholar
  68. Sjogaard G (1990). Exercise-induced muscle fatigue: The significance of potassium. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 140 (suppl. 593), 1–64.Google Scholar
  69. Sjøgaard G (1991). Role of exercise-induced potassium fluxes underlying muscle fatigue: a brief review. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 69, 238–245.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sjogaard G, Adams RP & Saltin B (1985). Water and ion shifts in skeletal muscle of humans with intense dynamic knee extension. American Journal of Physiology 248, R190–R196.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Sjogaard G & Saltin B (1985). Potassium redistribution within the body during exercise. Clinical Physiology 5 (suppl 4), 150.Google Scholar
  72. Sjøgaard G, Savard G & Juel C (1988). Muscle blood flow during isometric activity and its relation to muscle fatigue. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 57, 327–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Spruce AE, Standen NB & Stanfield PR (1985). Voltage-dependent ATP-sensitive potassium channels of skeletal muscle membrane. Nature 316, 736–738.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Thomas CK, Bigland-Ritchie B & Johansson RS (1991). Force-frequency relationships of human thenar motor units. Journal of Neurophysiology 65, 1509–1516.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Vyskocil F, Hnik P, Rehfeldt H, Vejsada R & Ujec E (1983). The measurement of Ke+ concentration changes in human muscles during volitional contractions. Pflügers Archiv 399, 235–237.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Vøllestad NK, Hallén J & Sejersted OM (1994). Effect of exercise intensity on potassium balance in muscle and blood of man. Journal of Physiology (London) 475, 359–368.Google Scholar
  77. Watson PD, Garner RP & Ward DS (1993). Water uptake in stimulated cat skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology 264, R790–R796.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Westerblad H, Lee JA, Lamb AG, Bolsover SR & Allen DG (1990). Spatial gradients of intracellular calcium in skeletal muscle during fatigue. Pflügers Archiv 415, 734–740.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Woods JJ, Furbush F & Bigland-Ritchie B (1987). Evidence for a fatigue-induced reflex inhibition of motoneuron firing rates. Journal of Neurophysiology 58, 125–137.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Sjøgaard
    • 1
  • A. J. McComas
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhysiologyNational Institute of Occupational HealthCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of MedicineMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

Personalised recommendations