Reactive oxygen/nitrogen species and contractile function in skeletal muscle during fatigue and recovery

J Physiol. 2016 Sep 15;594(18):5149-60. doi: 10.1113/JP270650. Epub 2016 Mar 20.


The production of reactive oxygen/nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) is generally considered to increase during physical exercise. Nevertheless, direct measurements of ROS/RNS often show modest increases in ROS/RNS in muscle fibres even during intensive fatiguing stimulation, and the major source(s) of ROS/RNS during exercise is still being debated. In rested muscle fibres, mild and acute exposure to exogenous ROS/RNS generally increases myofibrillar submaximal force, whereas stronger or prolonged exposure has the opposite effect. Endogenous production of ROS/RNS seems to preferentially decrease submaximal force and positive effects of antioxidants are mainly observed during fatigue induced by submaximal contractions. Fatigued muscle fibres frequently enter a prolonged state of reduced submaximal force, which is caused by a ROS/RNS-dependent decrease in sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) release and/or myofibrillar Ca(2+) sensitivity. Increased ROS/RNS production during exercise can also be beneficial and recent human and animal studies show that antioxidant supplementation can hamper the beneficial effects of endurance training. In conclusion, increased ROS/RNS production have both beneficial and detrimental effects on skeletal muscle function and the outcome depends on a combination of factors: the type of ROS/RNS; the magnitude, duration and location of ROS/RNS production; and the defence systems, including both endogenous and exogenous antioxidants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species