Effects of Prolonged Space Flight on Human Skeletal Muscle Enzyme and Substrate Profiles

Document Type




Format of Original

13 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN



Our primary goal was to determine the effects of 6-mo flight on the International Space Station (ISS) on selected anaerobic and aerobic enzymes, and the content of glycogen and lipids in slow and fast fibers of the soleus and gastrocnemius. Following local anesthesia, biopsies were obtained from nine ISS crew members ∼45 days preflight and on landing day (R+0) postflight. We subdivided the crew into those who ran 200 min/wk or more (high treadmill, HT) in-flight from those who ran /wk (low treadmill, LT). In the LT group, there was a loss of lipid in soleus type I fibers, and muscle glycogen significantly increased in soleus fiber types postflight. Soleus cytochrome oxidase (CO) activity was significantly depressed postflight in the type I fiber. This was attributed to the LT group where CO activity was reduced 59%. Otherwise, there was no change in the crew mean for type I or IIa fiber glycolytic or mitochondrial enzyme activities pre- vs. postflight in either muscle. However, two of the three HT subjects (Subjects E and H) showed significant increases in both β-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase and citrate synthase in the soleus type I fibers, and Subject E, exhibiting the largest increase in soleus oxidative enzymes, was the only subject to show a significant decrease in glycolytic enzyme activity. It is apparent that crew members performing adequate treadmill running can maintain calf muscle enzymes, which suggests that increased fatigue with weightlessness cannot be directly caused by a decline in muscle enzyme capacity.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 115, No. 5 (September 2013): 667-679. DOI.