Muscle fatigue and lactic acid accumulation

Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. 1986:556:83-91.


Lactic acid is formed and accumulated in the muscle under conditions of high energy demand, rapid fluctuations of the energy requirement and insufficient supply of O2. During intense exercise sustained to fatigue muscle pH decreases to about 6.4-6.6. Force generation does not appear to be limited by the high H+ ion concentration per se but is more related to the PCr level. Phosphofructokinase may be inhibited by high H+ concentration but the inhibition is adequately overcome by increases in the activators AMP and ADP. A high concentration of H+ will decrease PCr by a direct effect on the creatine kinase equilibrium and indirectly by an increase in ADP. The effect of acidosis on glycolysis and on the PCr level will result in a decreased rate of ADP rephosphorylation, and it is suggested that ADP increases transiently above the steady-state level in the contracting muscle fibre. It is further suggested that the function of Na-K-ATPase is impaired by the increase of ADP resulting in an altered ionic balance over the muscle cell membrane. Muscle fatigue is thus considered to be due to an insufficient rate of ADP rephosphorylation resulting in a block in the activation process or in the excitation/contraction coupling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Fatigue / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lactates / biosynthesis*
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Phosphocreatine / metabolism
  • Physical Exertion*


  • Lactates
  • Phosphocreatine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate