Studies in rats suggest that increases in fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscle during exercise are related to the phosphorylation and inhibition of acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), and secondary to this, a decrease in the concentration of malonyl-CoA. Studies in human muscle have not revealed a consistent decrease in the concentration of malonyl-CoA during exercise; however, measurements of ACC activity have not been reported. Thus, whether the same mechanism operates in human muscle in response to physical activity remains uncertain. To investigate this question, ACC was immunoprecipitated from muscle of human volunteers and its activity assayed in the same individual at rest and after one-legged knee-extensor exercise at 60, 85, and 100% of knee extensor VO2max. ACC activity was diminished by 50-75% during exercise with the magnitude of the decrease generally paralleling exercise intensity. Treatment of the immunoprecipitated enzyme with protein phosphatase 2A restored activity to resting values, suggesting the decrease in activity was due to phosphorylation. The measurement of malonyl-CoA in the muscles revealed that its concentration is 1/10 of that in rats, and that it is diminished (12-17%) during the higher-intensity exercises. The respiratory exchange ratio increased with increasing exercise intensity from 0.84 +/- 0.02 at 60% to 0.99 0.04 at 100% VO2max. Calculated rates of whole-body fatty acid oxidation were 121 mg/min at rest and 258 +/- 35, 264 +/- 63, and 174 +/- 76 mg/min at 60, 85, and 100% VO2max, respectively. The results show that ACC activity, and to a lesser extent malonyl-CoA concentration, in human skeletal muscle decrease during exercise. Although these changes may contribute to the increases in fat oxidation from rest to exercise, they do not appear to explain the shift from mixed fuel to predominantly carbohydrate utilization when exercise intensity is increased.

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