The response of human skeletal muscle tissue to hypoxia

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2009 Nov;66(22):3615-23. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0146-8. Epub 2009 Sep 10.


Hypoxia refers to environmental or clinical settings that potentially threaten tissue oxygen homeostasis. One unique aspect of skeletal muscle is that, in addition to hypoxia, oxygen balance in this tissue may be further compromised when exercise is superimposed on hypoxia. This review focuses on the cellular and molecular responses of human skeletal muscle to acute and chronic hypoxia, with emphasis on physical exercise and training. Based on published work, it is suggested that hypoxia does not appear to promote angiogenesis or to greatly alter oxidative enzymes in skeletal muscle at rest. Although the HIF-1 pathway in skeletal muscle is still poorly documented, emerging evidence suggests that muscle HIF-1 signaling is only activated to a minor degree by hypoxia. On the other hand, combining hypoxia with exercise appears to improve some aspects of muscle O(2) transport and/or metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / genetics
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Time Factors


  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit