Extreme endurance training: evidence of capillary and mitochondria compartmentalization in human skeletal muscle

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;63(3-4):173-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00233843.


Biopsies from the medial gastrocnemius muscle of three experienced endurance runners who had completed an ultramarathon run (160 km) the previous day were assessed for their oxidative characteristics (fibre types, capillarization and mitochondria content). Also, a regional comparison was made for fibres located centrally (completely surrounded by other fibres) versus fibres located peripherally (next to the interfascicular space) and the capillarization of these peripheral fibres was determined. Subsarcolemmal mitochondria were abundant and 'compartmentalized' close to the capillaries. The number of capillaries around fibres ranged from 5.8 to 8.5 and 5.7 to 8.5, and the number of capillaries.mm-2 ranged from 665 to 810 and 727 to 762, for type I (slow twitch) and type II (fast twitch) fibres, respectively. Central fibres contained a greater number of capillaries and more capillaries.mm-2 than their peripheral counterparts. Peripheral fibres contained more capillaries.micron-1 between fibres than at the interfascicular space. Type I fibres were more distributed (63%-78%) and larger than type II fibres. An abundance of subsarcolemmal mitochondria located close to the capillaries, efficient capillary proliferation between fibres where sharing can occur and greater relative distribution and size of type I fibres are, collectively, efficient characteristics of extreme endurance training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Capillaries / enzymology
  • Capillaries / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / enzymology
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / physiology*
  • Muscles / cytology
  • Muscles / enzymology
  • NADPH-Ferrihemoprotein Reductase / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*


  • NADPH-tetrazolium reductase
  • NADPH-Ferrihemoprotein Reductase
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases