Decline in skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiratory chain function: possible factor in ageing

Lancet. 1989 Mar 25;1(8639):637-9. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(89)92143-0.


State III (activated) mitochondrial respiration rates with pyruvate/malate, glutamate/malate, and succinate as substrates were assayed in isolated intact skeletal muscle mitochondria in 29 subjects aged 16-92 years. There was a significant negative correlation between respiration rate and age with all substrates tested. A similar trend was seen for respiratory enzyme activities assayed in muscle homogenate. These findings suggest a substantial fall in mitochondrial oxidative capacity in ageing muscle, which may contribute to reduced exercise capacity in elderly people. Mitochondrial respiratory failure may contribute to the ageing process in other organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / enzymology
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / ultrastructure
  • Mutation
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Pyruvates / metabolism
  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Succinates / metabolism
  • Succinic Acid


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Pyruvates
  • Succinates
  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Succinic Acid
  • Electron Transport Complex IV