Skeletal muscle performance declines with advancing age, and the underlying mechanism is not completely understood. A large body of convincing evidence has demonstrated a crucial role for interstitial K+ concentration ([K+]o) in modulating contractile function of skeletal muscle. The present study tested the hypothesis that during muscle contraction there is a greater accumulation of [K+]o in aged compared with adult skeletal muscle. Twitch muscle contraction was induced by electrical stimulation of the sciatic nerves of 8- and 32-mo-old Fischer 344 X Brown Norway rats. Levels of [K+]o were measured continuously by a microdialysis technique with the probes inserted into the gastrocnemius muscle. Stimulation at 1, 3, and 5 Hz elevated muscle [K+]o by 52, 64, and 88% in adult rats, and by 78, 98, and 104% in aged rats, respectively, and the increase was significantly higher in aged than in adult rats. Recovery for [K+]o, as measured by the time for [K+]o to recover by 20 and 50% from peak response after stimulation, was slower in aged rats. Ouabain (5 mM), a specific inhibitor of the Na+-K+ pump, was added in the perfusate to inhibit the reuptake of K+ into the cells to assess the role of the pump in the overall K+ balance. Ouabain elevated muscle [K+]o at rest, and the effect was significantly attenuated in aged animals. The present data demonstrated an augmented [K+]o in aged skeletal muscle compared with adult skeletal muscle, and the data suggested that an alteration in the function of the Na+-K+ pump may contribute, in part, to the deficiency in K+ balance in skeletal muscle of aged rats.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physiology (medical)