Skeletal muscle interstitial fluid metabolomics at rest and associated with an exercise bout: Application in rats and humans

Jie Zhang, Sudeepa Bhattacharyya, Robert C. Hickner, Alan R. Light, Christopher J. Lambert, Bruce K. Gale, Oliver Fiehn, Sean H. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Blood or biopsies are often used to characterize metabolites that are modulated by exercising muscle. However, blood has inputs derived from multiple tissues, biopsies cannot discriminate between secreted and intracellular metabolites, and their invasive nature is challenging for frequent collections in sensitive populations (e.g., children and pregnant women). Thus, minimally invasive approaches to interstitial fluid (IF) metabolomics would be valuable. A catheter was designed to collect IF from the gastrocnemius muscle of acutely anesthetized adult male rats at rest or immediately following 20 min of exercise (~60% of maximal O 2 uptake). Nontargeted, gas chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry analysis was used to detect 299 metabolites, including nonannotated metabolites, sugars, fatty acids, amino acids, and purine metabolites and derivatives. Just 43% of all detected metabolites were common to IF and blood plasma, and only 20% of exercise-modified metabolites were shared in both pools, highlighting that the blood does not fully reflect the metabolic outcomes in muscle. Notable exercise patterns included increased IF amino acids (except leucine and isoleucine), increased α-ketoglutarate and citrate (which may reflect tricarboxylic acid cataplerosis or shifts in nonmitochondrial pathways), and higher concentration of the signaling lipid oleamide. A preliminary study of human muscle IF was conducted using a 20-kDa microdialysis catheter placed in the vastus lateralis of five healthy adults at rest and during exercise (65% of estimated maximal heart rate). Approximately 70% of commonly detected metabolites discriminating rest vs. exercise in rats were also changed in exercising humans. Interstitium metabolomics may aid in the identification of molecules that signal muscle work (e.g., exertion and fatigue) and muscle health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


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