Horm Metab Res 2004; 36(9): 601-606
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-825922
Original Basic
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Effect of Plasma Free Fatty Acid Concentration on the Content and Composition of the Free Fatty Acid Fraction in Rat Skeletal Muscles

A.  Nawrocki1 , J.  Górski1
  • 1Department of Physiology, Medical University of Białystok, Białystok, Poland
Further Information

Publication History

Received 10 September 2003

Accepted after second revision 9 March 2004

Publication Date:
15 October 2004 (online)


Skeletal muscles contain a fraction of free (unesterified) fatty acids. This fraction is very small, but important since it contributes to the creation of the plasma-myocyte free fatty acid concentration gradient. Maintenance of this gradient is necessary for blood-borne fatty acids to be transported into the cell. There are no data on the regulation of the content and composition of the free fatty acid fraction in the cell. The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of an elevation and a reduction in the plasma-borne free fatty acid concentration on the content and composition of the free fatty acid fraction in different skeletal muscle types. The experiments were carried out on male Wistar rats with 280 - 310 g body weight. They were divided into four groups - 1, control; 2, exercised 3 h on a treadmill moving with a speed of 1,200 m/h and set at + 10° incline; 3, treated with heparin; and 4, treated with nicotinic acid. Samples of the soleus as well as the red and white sections of the gastrocnemius muscles were taken. These muscles are composed mostly of slow-twitch oxidative, fast-twitch oxidative-glycolytic and fast-twitch glycolytic fibres, respectively. Lipids were extracted from the muscle samples and from the blood; the free fatty acid fraction was isolated by means of thin-layer chromatography. The individual free fatty acids were identified and quantified using gas-liquid chromatography. The plasma concentration of free fatty acids was as follows: control group, 236.1 ± 32.9; after exercise, 407.4 ± 117.5; after heparin, 400.8 ± 36.8; and after nicotinic acid, 102.5 ± 26.1 μmol/l (p < 0.01 vs. control values in each case). The total content of the free fatty acid fraction in the control group was as follows: white gastrocnemius, 27.6 ± 7.3; red gastrocnemius, 52.2 ± 13.9; soleus, 72.3 ± 10.2 nmol/g. Elevation in plasma free acid concentration during exercise increased the total content of free fatty acids in the white gastrocnemius (38.7 ± 13.9) and in the soleus (103.4 ± 15.9 nmol/g; rest-exercise: p < 0.05 and p < 0.01, respectively), but had no effect in the red gastrocnemius. Neither elevation in the plasma free fatty acid concentration with heparin nor reduction with nicotinic acid affected the total content of the free fatty acid fraction in the muscles examined. The ratio of plasma concentration of individual acid to muscle concentration for the same acid varied greatly, depending on acid, muscle type and experimental group. The ratio was positive (above unity) for each acid almost in all cases with the exception of certain acids in the nicotinic acid-treated group where it was below unity. We conclude that the skeletal myocytes maintain a stable level of free fatty acid fraction in the wide range of plasma free fatty acid concentrations.


Dr. J. Górski

Department of Physiology, Medical University of Białystok

15-089 Białystok · Poland ·

Phone: +48 (85) 748 55 85

Fax: +48 (85) 748 85 56

Email: gorski@amb.edu.pl