Hepatic adaptations to iron deficiency and exercise training

W. T. Willis, P. H. Jones, R. Chengson, P. R. Dallman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Brooks et al. [Am. J. Physiol. 253 (Endocrinol. Metab. 16):E461-E466, 1987] demonstrated an elevated gluconeogenic rate in resting iron-deficient rats. Because physical exercise also imposes demand on this hepatic function, we hypothesized that exercise training superimposed on iron deficiency would augment the hepatic capacity for amino acid transamination/deamination and pyruvate carboxylation. Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 32) were obtained at weaning (21 days of age) and randomly assigned to iron-sufficient (dietary iron = 60 mg iron/kg diet) or iron-deficient (3 mg iron/kg) dietary groups. Dietary groups were subdivided into sedentary and trained subgroups. Treadmill training was 4 wk in duration, 6 days/wk, 1 h/day, 0% grade. Treadmill speed was initially 26.8 m/min and was decreased to 14.3 m/min over the 4-wk training period. The mild exercise-training regimen did not affect any measured variable in iron-sufficient rats. In contrast, in iron-deficient animals, training increased endurance capacity threefold and reduced blood lactate and the lactate-to-alanine ratio during submaximal exercise by 34 and 27%, respectively. The mitochondrial oxidative capacity of gastrocnemius muscle was increased 46% by training. However, the oxidative capacity of liver was not affected by either iron deficiency or training. Maximal rates of pyruvate carboxylation and glutamine metabolism by isolated liver mitochondria were also evaluated. Iron deficiency and training interacted to increase pyruvate carboxylation by intact mitochondria. Glutamine metabolism was increased roughly threefold by iron deficiency alone, and training amplified this effect to a ninefold increase over iron-sufficient animals. It is concluded that superimposing the stress of regular exercise on dietary iron deficiency stimulates adaptative increases in liver mitochondrial functions associated with pyruvate carboxylation and hepatic nitrogen metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-515
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992


  • gluconeogenesis
  • glutaminase
  • hepatic mitochondria
  • liver
  • pyruvate carboxylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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