Metabolic responses (rates of CO2 production from 14C-labelled glucose or lactate, and total O2 consumption) of red blood cells were monitored in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at rest and during 12 h of recovery from exhaustive exercise. Extracellular acid-base status, red blood cell intracellular pH (pHi), and plasma metabolite and catecholamine levels were recorded simultaneously. Despite a post-exercise rise in plasma glucose level, glucose oxidation was depressed, at least partly because of a rise in plasma lactate level. However, lactate oxidation was stimulated markedly, especially at 0–2 h post-exercise. Subsequent multifactorial experiments in vitro demonstrated that augmentation of lactate oxidation was due partly to increased plasma lactate, and partly to separate stimulatory effects of elevated PCO2 and catecholamine levels. Changes in pH and HCO3- level were not directly involved, but the stimulatory effects of catecholamines occurred only under acidotic conditions. Total red cell O2 consumption (MO2) remained generally stable after exercise. Similar multifactorial experiments in vitro demonstrated that respiratory, metabolic and mixed acidoses all inhibited MO2, an effect largely attributable to the lowered pH. This inhibition was reversed by typical post-exercise levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine; again, catecholamines had no effect under control conditions. Red cell pHi regulation was achieved without an increase in MO2 above resting levels. Our results indicate a complex sensitivity of red cell metabolism to acid-base status and a shift in substrate preference for oxidation after strenuous exercise. The mobilization of catecholamines plays an important coordinating role and helps sustain normal rates of oxidative metabolism by red cells in the face of post-exercise blood acidosis.

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