NEW insights into the mechanisms used by muscles to regulate oxygen consumption during exercise could have great significance for athletes and possibly lead to new treatments for conditions associated with the metabolism, such as diabetes and obesity. The study, from researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden, shows the crucial role that the enzyme FIH plays in generating energy through the process of anaerobic metabolism.
FIH Role During Exercise
At the start of exercise, energy is produced by muscles consuming oxygen. However, when oxygen levels go beneath a certain threshold, energy is generated by the process of anaerobic metabolism, which does not require oxygen. The study revealed how FIH is a vital component in this switch-over.
“We’ve discovered that the muscles regulate oxygen consumption in a very precise way using the oxygen-sensitive enzyme FIH,” explained principle investigator Prof Randall Johnson, Karolinska Institutet. “The enzyme makes sure that the muscles can use a more effective oxygen-based metabolism for as long as possible and then promotes a very quick transition to anaerobic metabolism.”
The team observed that more oxygen than usual was required during exercise in mice which lacked FIH in their muscles. Previous research showed that elite athletes have particularly high levels of muscular FIH, displaying the potential significance the new study could have for these sportspeople. In addition, the researchers believe the insights could lead to new treatments for conditions affected by the metabolism.
“No-one’s entertained the idea of developing a drug that affects FIH before, but I think our study will lead to greater examination of that possibility,” commented Prof Johnson. “Here you’re able to affect the metabolism itself, perhaps mainly in the muscles, but possibly in other parts of the body too. This can be important in other contexts, such as diabetes and obesity.”
Until now, there has been limited understanding of the function of the FIH enzyme, which was first discovered over 10 years ago. This study from the Karolinska Institutet could therefore also provide the basis for further research into its role in the body.
James Coker, Reporter
For the source and further information about the study, click here.