Using a computer model of oxidative phosphorylation developed previously [Korzeniewski and Mazat (1996) Biochem. J. 319, 143–148; Korzeniewski and Zoladz (2001) Biophys. Chem. 92, 17–34], we analyse the effect of several factors on the oxygen-uptake kinetics, especially on the oxygen consumption rate (Vo2) and half-transition time t1/2, at the onset of exercise in skeletal muscles. Computer simulations demonstrate that an increase in the total creatine pool [PCr±Cr] (where Cr stands for creatine and PCr for phosphocreatine) and in glycolytic ATP supply lengthen the half-transition time, whereas increase in mitochondrial content, in parallel activation of ATP supply and ATP usage, in oxygen concentration, in proton leak, in resting energy demand, in resting cytosolic pH and in initial alkalization decrease this parameter. Theoretical studies show that a decrease in the activity of creatine kinase (CK) [displacement of this enzyme from equilibrium during on-transient (rest-to-work transition)] accelerates the first stage of the Vo2 on-transient, but slows down the second stage of this transient. It is also demonstrated that a prior exercise terminated a few minutes before the principal exercise shortens the transition time. Finally, it is shown that at a given ATP demand, and under conditions where CK works near the thermodynamic equilibrium, the half-transition time of Vo2 kinetics is determined by the amount of PCr that has to be transformed into Cr during rest-to-work transition; therefore any factor that diminishes the difference in [PCr] between rest and work at a given energy demand will accelerate the Vo2 on-kinetics. Our conclusions agree with the general idea formulated originally by Easterby [(1981) Biochem. J. 199, 155–161] that changes in metabolite concentrations determine the transition times between different steady states in metabolic systems.

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