Rats were fed on a diet containing 1% β-guanidinopropionic acid (GPA), a creatine substrate analogue, for 6-10 weeks to deplete their muscle of creatine. This manipulation was previously shown to give a 90% decrease in [phosphocreatine] in skeletal and cardiac muscle and a 50% decrease in [ATP] in skeletal muscle only. Maximal activities of creatine kinase and of representative enzymes of aerobic and anaerobic energy metabolism were measured in the superficial white, medial and deep red portions of the gastrocnemius muscle, in the soleus and plantaris muscle and in the heart. Fast-twitch muscles were smaller in GPA-fed animals than in controls, but the size of the soleus muscle was unchanged. The activities of aerobic enzymes increased by 30-40% in all fast-twitch muscle regions except the superficial gastrocnemius, but were unchanged in the soleus muscle. The activities of creatine kinase and phosphofructokinase decreased by 20-50% in all skeletal-muscle regions except the deep gastrocnemius, and the activity of glycogen phosphorylase generally paralleled these changes. There were no significant changes in the activities of any of the enzymes measured in the heart. The glycogen content of the gastrocnemius-plantaris complex was increased by 185% in GPA-fed rats. The proportion of Type I fibres in the soleus muscle increased from 81% in control rats to 100% in GPA-fed rats, consistent with a previous report of altered isometric twitch characteristics and a decrease in the maximum velocity of shortening in this muscle [Petrofsky & Fitch (1980) Pflugers Arch. 384, 123-129]. We conclude that fast-twitch muscles adapt by a combination of decreasing diffusion distances, increasing aerobic capacity and decreasing glycolytic potential. Slow-twitch muscles decrease glycolytic potential and become slower, thus decreasing energy demand. These results suggest that persistent changes in the [phosphocreatine] and [ATP] are alone sufficient to alter the expression of enzyme proteins and proteins of the contractile apparatus, and that fibre-type-specific thresholds exist for the transformation response.

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