To further understand the mechanism(s) explaining the faster pulmonary oxygen uptake (p(VO)(2)) kinetics found in children compared to adults, this study examined whether the phase II p(VO)(2) kinetics in children are mechanistically linked to the dynamics of intramuscular PCr, which is known to play a principal role in controlling mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation during metabolic transitions. On separate days, 18 children completed repeated bouts of moderate intensity constant work-rate exercise for determination of (1) PCr changes every 6 s during prone quadriceps exercise using (31)P-magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and (2) breath by breath changes in p(VO)(2) during upright cycle ergometry. Only subjects (n = 12) with 95% confidence intervals <or=+/-7 s for all estimated time constants were considered for analysis. No differences were found between the PCr and phase II p(VO)(2) time constants at the onset (PCr 23 +/- 5 vs. p(VO)(2) 23 +/- 4 s, P = 1.000) or offset (PCr 28 +/- 5 vs. p(VO)(2) 29 +/- 5 s, P = 1.000) of exercise. The average difference between the PCr and phase II p(VO)(2) time constants was 4 +/- 4 s for the onset and offset responses. Pooling of the exercise onset and offset responses revealed a significant correlation between the PCr and p(VO)(2) time constants (r = 0.459, P = 0.024). The close kinetic coupling between the p(VO)(2) and PCr responses at the onset and offset of exercise in children is consistent with our current understanding of metabolic control and suggests that an age-related modulation of the putative phosphate linked controller(s) of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation may explain the faster p(VO)(2) kinetics found in children compared to adults.