Skeletal muscle metabolic response to exercise in horses with 'tying-up' due to polysaccharide storage myopathy

Stephanie J Valberg, Jennifer M. Macleay, Jessica A. Billstrom, Melissa A. Hower-Moritz, James R Mickelson

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76 Scopus citations


Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) is a distinct cause of exertional rhabdomyolysis in Quarter Horses that results in glycogen and abnormal polysaccharide accumulation. The purpose of this study was to determine if excessive glycogen storage in PSSM is due to a glycolytic defect that impairs utilisation of this substrate during exercise. Muscle biopsies, blood lactates and serum CK were obtained 1) at rest from 5 PSSM Quarter Horses, 4 normal Quarter Horses (QH controls) and 6 Thoroughbreds with recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (TB RER) and 2) after a maximal treadmill exercise test in PSSM and QH controls. In addition, 3 PSSM horses performed a submaximal exercise test. At rest, muscle glycogen concentrations were 2.4x and 1.9x higher in PSSM vs. QH controls or TB RER, respectively. Muscle lactates at rest were similar between PSSM and QH controls but significantly higher in PSSM vs. TB RER. Muscle glucose-6-phosphate concentrations were also higher in PSSM horses than controls combined. During maximal exercise, mean muscle glycogen concentrations declined 2.7x more and mean lactate increased 2x more in PSSM vs. QH controls; however, differences were not statistically significant Blood lactate concentrations after maximal exercise did not reflect generally higher muscle lactate in PSSM vs. QH controls. No change in blood lactate concentrations occurred in PSSM horses with submaximal exercise. Serum CK activity increased significantly 4 h after maximal and submaximal exercise and was significantly higher in PSSM vs. QH controls. These results show that during maximal exercise, PSSM horses utilised muscle glycogen and produce lactic acid via a functional glycolytic pathway and that during submaximal exercise oxidative metabolism was unimpaired. The excessive glycogen storage and formation of abnormal polysaccharide in PSSM horses therefore appear to reflect increased glycogen synthesis rather than decreased utilisation. The specific subset of horses with exertional rhabdomyolysis due to PSSM would likely benefit clinically from a diet low in soluble carbohydrates like grain with fat added as well as gradually increasing daily exercise to reduce excessive glycogen accumulation and enhance utilisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalEquine veterinary journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Glycogen
  • Horse
  • Lactate
  • Muscle
  • Myopathy
  • Polysaccharide


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