5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin) has been implicated in the perception of exercise-induced fatigue. Sumatriptan is a selective 5-HT1B/D receptor agonist which does not cross the blood–brain barrier. The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of sumatriptan on exercise capacity. Ten healthy male subjects (mean age 28.4±10.8 years) performed a maximal treadmill exercise test according to the Bruce protocol with expired gas analysis on two occasions. Either 6 mg of sumatriptan or placebo was administered subcutaneously in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design. Exercise time was greater after placebo compared with sumatriptan [914 and 879 s respectively; 95% confidence interval (CI) of difference 12.1 s, 59.1 s; P = 0.008]. There was no significant effect on peak oxygen consumption (placebo, 50.6±6.3 ml·min-1·kg-1; sumatriptan, 51.7±7.6 ml·min-1·kg-1). Sumatriptan administration resulted in decreases in both heart rate (sumatriptan, 188±14 beats/min, placebo, 196±12 beats/min; 95% CI of difference 12.6, 2.6; P = 0.008) and respiratory exchange ratio (sumatriptan, 1.23±0.06; placebo, 1.26±0.07; 95% CI of difference 0.05, 0.01; P = 0.01) at peak exercise. There were no significant differences in blood pressure, heart rate or submaximal oxygen consumption between sumatriptan and placebo treatments at any stage of exercise. Thus sumatriptan reduces maximal exercise capacity in normal males. The failure to demonstrate any haemodynamic or cardiorespiratory effect suggests that sumatriptan enhances perception of fatigue by a peripheral mechanism affecting 5-HT modulation.

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